N.Ra defended the first ball, though no coaching manual would call it that. Murugan seized the opportunity as he ran towards the other end. But Murugan ultimately outsmarted himself by turning towards Jalandhar and trying to force him to fall. But Jalandhar was not known as the mountain man for nothing. The force of the collision hardly perturbed him but put Murugan off balance. Murugan tripped, and Jalandhar used the opportunity to run him out.
Surendra Babu began to hop in fury, reminding me of a particularly grotesque pagan ritual. Mahendran was the next batsman to walk in. The two following him were present on the team only because there was no one else to take their place. We considered ourselves lucky that they knew which side of the bat was up.
Half the team was ready to assassinate Mahendran and had decided to do so upon losing – which, even to the most pessimistic among us, was a mere seven balls away.
Surendra Babu sat down on the corner of the ground, and began ranting away in a brand of Tamil so chaste that it put Sanjay Anand’s earlier effort (refer previous chapter) to shame.
Mahendran managed to prod the ball for a single off the last ball. Though Mahendran was not our best hope for scoring those last few runs, he was better than N.Ra.
The next over was bowled by a spinner named Pranav. He vexed Mahendran thoroughly with his first two deliveries, especially because he turned the ball even less than Kumble. The third delivery, like 90% of Pranav’s delieveries, was outside the off-stump, of good length and did not turn an inch. Mahendran desperately swung at it trying to hit the ball through the gap between deep point and cover. But, all he managed to do was edge the ball to the right of the keeper. But the keeper, still hobbling after the incident with the stumps in the last over (he wasn’t smart enough to wear pads like yours truly was) could not get to the ball in time and the ball predictably ‘raced to the fence like a rabbit on rollerskates’, to grab a leaf from the pages of my illustrious namesake.
We had won! And had done so thanks to Mahendran. We began to look forward to the wonderful prospect of getting the money that came our way for winning the match.
The 9th B players were sullenly filing over towards us after having lynched Sanjay Anand and taken all his money (which was a considerable amount). After a few arguments, we all made off with fifty rupees with the exception of Mahendran who was given terse instructions to take a walk to the nearest liquor store to get Amit his share.
Mahendran began to implore everyone that his good name would be sullied forever if he stepped into a liquor store. He also complained that a bottle of beer would cost eighty rupees, and that he couldn’t afford it without contributions from the rest of us. But one good look at Surendra Babu’s calloused knuckles at close quarters convinced him that perpetual penury and ignominy were preferable to being maimed by those knuckles. He began his long walk towards the liquor store (or ‘wine shaap’ as Amit preferred to call it), a drooling Amit in tow.
I walked home with a song in my heart and watched as a rather battered Sanjay Anand cycled home. I wondered what he was thinking of before breaking off to look at a hilarious accident involving an unfortunate cyclist and a foul mouthed old woman. Life moved on…