Sagar’s rigorous camp. And then, back to school where a surprise awaits him. Do you think his troubles and challenges are finally over?
The schedule of the month-long Summer Coaching Camp was a really gruelling one: from 5:30-9:00 am and 5:00-7:00 pm every day. The coach was S Raghav who had represented South Zone a decade ago.
A week after the camp started Sagar was pleasantly surprised to see Mohammed Aslam at the nets. Aslam had played One Day Internationals for the country and had, at one time, been the spearhead of India’s pace attack. Raghav had invited him to the camp so that he could watch the budding cricketers in action and give them tips.
Sagar was a great fan of Aslam and, seeing his idol in flesh and blood, he started bowling with greater vigour. After around half an hour he heard his name being called. It was Raghav and beside him was Aslam.
Sagar ran up to the duo.
“Young man I have been watching you for some time. You have terrific action and are able to generate quite a bit of pace but there is one mistake you are making.”
“What is that, sir?”
“You are trying to bowl too fast. As a result, your line and length are going awry. At this rate you’ll end up bowling wide balls and no-balls which, for any bowler, is a sin. Remember, accuracy is as, if not more, important as speed. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” nodded Sagar humbly.
“There is one more aspect you should take care of. And this, I learnt from Wasim Akram— the Pakistani legend whom I admire very much. He once said on TV, and I quote, ‘Many pace bowlers only want to bowl fast. They don’t realise how important it is to mix the fast deliveries with an occasional slow one.’ Young man, I have myself used this strategy of mixing deliveries to great effect and many a time it is the slow ball which has surprised the batsmen and got me the wicket.”
Aslam looked at Sagar. “I think you are good. That is why I am telling you all this. Follow these tips. I’ll come again after a couple of days and see how you are doing.”
Sagar stuck to Aslam’s advice. A week later Aslam came and watched Sagar in action.
“Good. There’s a lot of improvement. Keep at it and soon you’ll be one of the best in the circuit.”
Sagar was elated. Coming from Aslam this was high praise indeed.
School reopened on June 15th.
“If anyone asks why you missed the exams, just say that you were down with typhoid,” the Principal had told Sagar and that is exactly what he said.
Fortunately, there were not too many nosy parkers around and Sagar did not have to face any embarrassing questions.
Both Sagar and Aamir got busy right away.
Sagar’s evenings were devoted to cricket practice. He made it easily to the school team and was now its main pace bowler. Aamir was heavily into academics. This was an important year with the board exam at the end. Now, his goal was not merely beating Shantanu, he was aiming much higher. He wanted to make it to the top ten in the State. That would make him eligible for a scholarship instituted by the CBSE Board. Apart from the honour, the scholarship would ease the burden on his parents.
Gopal too was appearing for his board. As his studies picked up he started coming to Aamir’s room more frequently to clear his doubts or learn new concepts.
July 1st was a Wednesday. The Principal was to announce the names of the Prefects that day. There had been a lot of discussion and debate as to who would be nominated. Shantanu was a certainty and it was expected Aamir too would make it.
“I have no chance, Aamir. I messed up my chances by getting hooked to drugs,” Sagar told Aamir when the friends were discussing the various possibilities.
“I don’t think Princy would hold that against you.”
“You don’t understand. After what I have done do you think Princy will be able to trust me so easily? Moreover, suppose, just suppose, someone who is connected with the school has seen me in the de-addiction centre or has information that I spent some time there! In case he comes to know I have been made a Prefect he might squeal and, if he does, all hell will break loose. ‘TPS appoints drug addicts as prefects’ will be the slogan raised by many! Our School has a lot of competition and our Princy, quite a few enemies.”
On Wednesday after the Morning Prayer and daily news in the Assembly, Mr Puri took the mike.
“Well, friends, I am sure you must all be eagerly waiting to hear the names of your new Prefects. Well, I won’t keep the suspense very long. From 10B we have Raj Kishore and Rupesh. From 10A the Prefects are Shantanu, Aamir and,” he stopped a fraction of a second as his gaze fleetingly touched Aamir and Sagar and then announced, “Sagar.”
Sagar couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘Was this really happening?’ He had been made a Prefect in spite of the fact that he had let everyone down – his parents, his friends and his Principal.
After the assembly Sagar and Aamir went to the Principal’s office.
“Happy?” Mr Puri asked, a gentle smile on his lips.
“Thanks a zillion, Sir. After what I did, I thought I will never ever get a chance. My parents will be thrilled,” Sagar said.
“Son, there is a saying in Hindi which means when a person who has lost his way in the morning returns home in the evening, he is forgiven. So, forget the past and look at the future. You should realise being a Prefect not only enhances your prestige and bestows greater authority but is also a big responsibility.”
Read on to Chapter 24
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