Sunnu a novel by Suman Kumar

Chapter 15

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I started playing cricket with Babu again. He was glad to see me back in action. The Durga Colony boys had a team, but I didn't play for them. I played for the Greamspet Team, which was captained by Babu. The Colony boys didn't like it and yes, I didnít like their xenophobia too but I couldn't care less. I played for Babu's team earlier and I decided I'd play for them now. The Colony boys were a hotheaded lot. We had matches every weekend in the Arts College grounds. The town team, the senior team of Chittoor that is, occupied the main ground and we took the other one that was right below the main ground. In the first match I played against the Colony, the Colony boys booed me. This kind of affected my bowling. I was trained in Greamspet- a place that boasted of very talented cricket players. Iíd learnt bowling the hard way with the Greamspet guys. So I somehow managed to put up a decent performance.

Each team had twenty-five overs to play. The Colony team was all out in the middle of the fifteenth over. I took three wickets. I relished this, a personal victory, against the Colony boys who refused to accept me as one of them. They would not allow me to join in their practice matches, which took place in the Colony playground, near the pond.

After seven or eight matches, Babu's team members protested to him. They were not happy about my playing in their team. There was not much that Babu could do, so before he faced further trouble, I quit his team. He was sorry, but I told him that it was all right.

I met Uday, two days later, in the grocery store. "You play for the Greamspet team, right?" he inquired.

"Used to. They can't have a Colony boy in their team and the Colony boys don't like my face," I said smiling.

"I'm Uday and I'm facing the same problem. They can't accept a new comer here," he said and shook hands with me. His home was near the entrance of the Colony, which was not considered a part of the Colony by the wise boys of Durga Colony; some territorial romanticism that was boring to mull over.

"The boys near the entrance have formed a team and I'm the vice- captain. You can join us if you would like to".

Why not? "Sure!" I said. We practised in a dried out paddy field for a month.

"We will play a match against the Colony team", I announced.

"Who will ask them?" Raja, the captain of the team demanded.

I stayed inside the Colony, so I decided to mediate. We named our team 'Tigers'. The next day, I went to Dharam's house. He was the captain of the Colony team.

"Want to play a match against us?" I asked him.

"You are not in Greamspet Team," he announced, as if he had just found out the deepest secret of the CIA.

"No, I'm with the entrance gang. We have put a team together."

"Well, well, sure. Why not, but we play it in our ground, in the Colony."

It was their home turf. "Ok," I agreed.

The match started at two on Sunday afternoon. They won the toss and they elected to field first. We scored a hundred and thirty runs in the allotted twenty-five overs. The umpires were biased but we expected this as they were from the colony. I shared the new ball with Raja. By the time they sent their openers to the crease, there was a sizeable crowd in the ground. I was nervous. I gripped the shiny, red cork ball and started my run up and a huge 'Boo' erupted from one section of the crowd. I pitched it short and Kumar pulled it over midwicket for a four.

Uday walked up to me. "Don't worry about these jokers. See those three stumps there? Pitch it up there. Don't lose heart!"

Yes, I told myself, pitch it up, right up in the block hole. The next ball was an over-pitched ball on the off-stump and Kumar drove through the covers for another four. There was panic in our camp. "Baby-cut, baby-cut!" they were screaming. 'Baby-cut' was given to a bowler when he bowled miserably. He will have to stop after the third ball. It is not a cricketing practice but these guys had invented it, God knows why. I took my own time for the third ball. Raja could give me a 'baby-cut' if I messed up the third ball. I knew he wouldn't do it, as it was not considered decent. I was under tremendous pressure. I started my run up and halfway through it, I had a brilliant idea. I am not going to bowl this one fast. I wanted Kumar to think that I was going to fire it in with all guns blazing. I had a fierce expression on my face, the trademark of a fast bowler. I wanted him to think that I was hurt, that I was going to give all that I have got to this delivery. A fraction of a second before I released the ball, I loosened up my shoulder, cut the speed of my action and bowled a little slower. It was an off spinner and an absolute beauty. Kumar played it too soon as expected. The ball took ages to reach his bat and even before it arrived, Kumar was halfway through his shot. He top-edged and the ball spooned up in the air.

"Leave it, it is mine!" I shouted as I followed through.

I took the catch and threw the ball hard on the ground and did a tribal war dance, right there. I lifted my arms high and let out a huge howl which was directed at the booing crowd. I only took two wickets. Uday took five and the rest were run outs. We won the match by a comfortable margin. We beat them in their home turf, despite hurdles like biased umpiring and a hostile audience. We played against every team in town and had a seventy- percent victory record. Just before my exams started, Uday left town as his father was transferred to Kurnool. Two other team members, Sasi and Kiran moved to another area in Chittoor. The team gradually broke up. After the exams, which I wrote well, Raja and I wanted to play again, but there was no team.

One fine June morning, Kumar from the colony team approached us. "Would you like to join our team? Let us forget our hostilities and be friends. What do you say?"

We were too decent to refuse a proposal like that. We were part of the colony gang now. I was their number two bowler and Raja was the number one.

The exam results were out and I passed it with an aggregate of sixty-seven percent, a not-so-bad effort. Dad was happy.

"You are joining the B.Z. School for eighth standard," he announced one fine day. "And you won't be going to school in a bus anymore."

I was disappointed. B.Z. was three kilometres away and I did not walk that distance for a fortune.

"You will be getting a bicycle soon," said Dad.

Wow! That was fantastic! My dream had come true finally. I got a metallic red BSA-SLR after a week. I was proud of my new bicycle. I pedalled along Turtle Neck, with the wind beating against me. I pedalled along the pond, with those noisy frogs looking on. I pedalled down the colony main road, like a knife through butter, in the down gradient.

All the boys from Little Flower joined B.Z. as boys were not allowed to continue after the seventh standard there. The girls remained in Little Flower. A few boys were missing. Raghu Ram was missing. Trishanker was missing. Nevertheless, it was fun time again.

My school started at seven forty-five in the morning and ended at twelve forty-five in the afternoon. In the afternoons, I went fishing in the pond with Biju, our neighbour who was in his sixth standard at Little Flower. I also made friends with Basha from the West Side of the colony. Sethu, Biju's classmate joined us too. Basha was in his eighth standard, but he was in the Mundy School. We went trekking, fishing and to the movies together. Soon we formed a gang. This gang looked promising and long-term. This gang looked absolutely awesome.

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sunnu 2001©Suman Kumar.R.