Saturday, 26 March 2011


Imagine - Anuranjan Roy

Anuranjan Roy is a regular guest contributor based in Kolkata, India.

Imagine... that you are Sachin Tendulkar, 20 years of international cricket experience behind
you, walking in to bat.

It's early on the windy first day of a Test match at the Newlands stadium,Cape Town, South
Africa. Two quick Indian wickets have already gone down but the crowds have poured into the stadium for exactly the situation you find yourself in. You absorb the noise, the atmosphere, the excitement and the expectations of the watching thousands plus the millions catching the action live on television; gather a deep breath and take guard.

Steaming in towards you, without the slightest hint of goodwill in his intentions, is the best fast bowler in international cricket currently in business, Dale Steyn. He can swing the cricket ball like its on drugs; bowl at speeds that will shatter your stumps before you can blink and also crack your ribs if you are caught unawares by one of his mean short of length deliveries. Accuracy and discipline is not something he can be faulted on, not to forget that this is Cape Town where the ball swings, bounces and bites anyway. Any other person in your place
would have just raised his hands in surrender and walked away. But not you. 

Because you are Tendulkar. You've been in tight corners like this before. Where there is Steyn running in, there was once a Wasim Akram or an Allan Donald or a Glenn McGrath
or a Shoaib Akhtar. If it's short and wide, cut it; if it's full outside off, cream a cover drive; if it's full and straight, punch it back past the bowler; if it's full on the pads, flick it away on the leg side; if it's short and heading towards your body, pull it; if it's really short, hook it or just weave away from it. You have an answer for almost anything. Almost. 20 years in the
business of extraordinary batting still haven't helped you prepare for the "corridor".
In fact, the thrill of the "corridor" might the only reason that you still revel in the challenge of playing cricket. 

Of all the expressions frequently used by cricket commentators, "Corridor of uncertainty" has to be the most evocative. The good length delivery in the narrow zone on or around the off stump, poses multiple questions to the batsman in that brief half a second it takes to get him. Back foot or front foot? Play it or let it go? Thump it or stonewall it? So many questions, never a definite answer. Uncertainty as defined in the English dictionary assumes the form of a live snarling creature. Being Sachin and the bowler being Steyn, you half expect what's coming. There it is, the perfect good length delivery at blistering pace in that doubt breeding region around the off stump. 

There are three South African slip fielders and a wicketkeeper waiting for a nick which they
will gratefully pouch. Your critics will then snigger behind your back ignorant of the reality of two decades of invaluable service to the team, "He is useless in critical situations." Maybe you should let this one go and wait for an easier one. But what if this comes back in towards the stumps? It'll be too late to react then! If you half play it, there is every chance of a thin
edge so why not smack it? A crackling boundary to start with works wonders for your confidence. All difficult choices but the truth is that you love being there, at that position of potential. There may be glory to be hoped for or sheer disappointment to be coped with, but the real incentive is not knowing what will happen, until you make your move.

Negotiating the bewildering path of life is so much like playing an infinite Test match as a
batsman. You need patience and you need judgement; you need anticipation and you need self-belief. Opportunities come and go, like zippy Steyn deliveries. On a bad day, you grit your teeth and try to weather the storm. On a good day, you middle the ones that are there to be hit, the short balls and the full ones. Yet anything in the corridor of uncertainty is always a mystery, no matter how long you play.

That is when you need that rare combination of pluck and luck as you shape up to face the
unknown. Rule number 1 is to accept that life is frequently unfair and you shouldn't be complaining about how you were handed a raw deal, especially since you are by far not the first person that something  ridiculously undeserved happened to. It is in the nature of life to slap you in the face for no reason at all, and all those years of hard work in the nets might amount to a big round zero on match day. There might also be wrong choices made, but it's
pointless to rue them for long. Of course being dismissed hurts, but the only option you have in this life is to back yourself and live to fight another day.
Then, there is the exciting possibility of things going right, of achieving a flow that keeps you at the crease for a long, fulfilling innings. People will say what they say anyway but at the end of the day, it's your life to live and your route to choose.

 Quoting Liam Thomas Ryder:

"Time sets the stage; fate writes the script; but only we may choose our

Imagine that you are Sachin Tendulkar.

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