The distance between the wickets doesn’t change. It is the pace of the runner that makes the two ends closer or impossible to reach on time, sometimes.
Like her, we are always running to score for ourselves and many times for others.
She looked up. Naturally! Won’t one? Her window was on the third floor facing the small triangle guarded by the old square buildings from all four sides. The houses were one or two stories high, almost as old as the open triangle itself. They were much older than the little residents of the lane and some of the houses had seen their great grandparents as well.
A voice called out from the small window on the third floor of the building at the leftmost corner of the lane. She looked back and looked up with a jolt while running. And that was it! The bells flew from the wicket even before she could come close to the white line.
Practically, she wasn’t. In most of the matches she had played so far in that tiny triangle, she could never be out run. She had always ran for others. A runner-by who could dart like a chipmunk or that was what they said. She had never seen a chipmunk run between the wickets. Moreover, in an all-boys club both the chipmunk and the girl could never make it to the team, a fact both of them knew.
So, all she did was wait patiently at the side of some of the chubbiest batsman who after a single lame strike would look at her to run for them. She knew the shots by the sound they made. One which would go farthest had a different sound right at the point of contact with the bat. Not necessarily the one which was hit hardest would travel farthest.
Thump!! She knew that it would land somewhere nearby only to be picked up by someone swift and the bells would be down even before a single run was complete. Her ears remained mostly glued at the handle of the willow wood held by some other hand. Most of the boys would hit them randomly. Only one or two could hit the ball at their will and make her pant.
There was Pappu who had a slight limp and even though he could run quite well but would prefer to walk briskly in front of the audience and if possible, had her run for him in all the errands of his life. But she could only run well between two wickets, a ‘happy feet’ for both the teams!
Chottu was a tremendous decision-maker and like most of the adults, would always misguide the other on the far end. After half way through the crease, the poor batsman would realize that his companion had decided to stay comfortably within his Laksman rekha without budging a bit. That always led to a bloody fight and the reason she would come in.
It was the sound of the bat hitting the ball that would decide her speed.
Bubu-da was the quiet, tall boy who took his time to figure out where to hit. He would hit it everywhere except the one he chose and unlike Chottu, would run right after the ball touched the bat. The kiss of the ball was quite unpredictable and so was Bubu-da’s destination.
So, that was how she waited at the side to run when an opportunity came. Opportunities don’t ever come with a roll call register. Random and sudden, opportunities expect all to be alert on their arrival.
But then, it was never her match. She was always playing for others. Winning or losing gave her no fame or any blame. She enjoyed this running between the wickets and how every completed lapse increased the score in ones and twos.
She never got out running. Was she ever in either?
She was not bothered to know. She just ran.
She ran hard, between the wickets.
(Artwork: By Piu Mahapatra inspired by a photograph taken by Nishi Pulugurtha)
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