Wednesday, June 12

Addicted

He wondered when his turn to bat would come.

He'd been waiting a while, more than an hour and it was making him uncomfortable in a guilty way. The longer he stayed in this quiet, comfortable room in the pavilion, the better it was for the team. And the team was everything. He'd said it so many times, at interviews and post-match presentations that it should have become a cliche... like that nonsense about some tracer bullet, but no, it became his mantra. He played for the team.

But he was a batsman, and deep down, in an ancient place, there had always been a spark of fiery joy when the two wickets fell. He had felt guilty about having this feeling, agonised about what it meant about him as a person and tried to kill it off by listening to music so loudly that someone would have to tap his shoulder to signal that it was his turn to bat. All he'd succeeded in doing was burying it under a pile of phenomenal records, performances and a spotless character, both on and off the field. He could still feel it though. How could he not? He was born to play cricket, born to hold a bat in his hands and wield it with the grace and brutality of a katana, to epitomise technique and timing to a point where the bat had become part of him, had become him and reduced every other player of the game to an admiring audience.

As he sat, he looked at his hands and knees. They'd seen and survived a lot and he thanked god for their durability. At one point, some years ago, his elbow, of all things, had threatened to end it all, but the operation was a success, although he wasn't allowed to use his beloved 3.2 lb bats anymore, forced by his body to switch to something lighter. He hated everything about it. The betrayal of his body, the doctor who couldn't make him 100% whole again and of course the bloody bats which suddenly felt like feathers in his hands and made him struggle with his timing. He'd always had the talent, he'd known he was a genius (a word that he automatically whispered, even in his mind) but the betrayal, he'd conquered through sheer discipline and bloodymindedness, once again becoming the best in the world, smashing every batting record possible, except getting a 100 at Lords and a test triple.

Of course, this had taken time. But he had remained both patient and ruthless, carefully marrying both his and the team's success, making sure that he became the rarest of the rare - the 'undroppable'. Like the greatest warriors through the ages, he'd earned the right to choose when his time would come... a veritable Bhishma of cricket, resting on a bed of stumps. And like the grandsire, he'd seen men come and leave the dressing rooms for years, until there came a day when a teammate arrived who had not been born when He'd made his debut.

That was the moment his body and spirit had felt the crushing weight of the years. Ordinary men would have collapsed but he was no ordinary man. He was a god.

A god who now awaited his turn at bat.

The door opened then, and he drew a breath of anticipation as he asked "Is it time?"

"Not yet" came the reply. "It's actually lunchtime. Here's your meal, sir. Enjoy."

There was no reply as the door closed.

The woman who'd served lunch waited outside for a pause to let her heart stop racing. She'd brought meals to this man for 10 years and it still felt... she couldn't put it into words. One did not often meet a god. Rarer still, a god transformed into an ordinary man.

"Old age and Alzheimer's Disease... it just wasn't fair", the nurse told herself.

Or rather, it just wasn't cricket.

Song for the moment: Disappear - INXS