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On A Rough Pitch

By Medha Godbole in Stories » Short
Updated 12:20 IST May 06, 2017

Views » 198 | 14 min read

 Medium pacer Rihanna Baig is on her bowling mark, ready to bowl… Pakistan captain Shazia Aslam comes in and gives her a last minute pointer”, the commentator gushed with obvious excitement. It was tight situation. Six runs in 2 balls. Vidya Deshmukh was on strike and one look at her showed her steely intent, reflected through her eyes. The camera zoomed in on her face, divided in parts by the helmet grill. Beads of sweat had formed on her forehead. Vidya ignored that and concentrated on the ball. As Rihanna started her run up, Vidya widened her eyes, loosened her shoulders and slowly everything except for the white coloured leather thing became a blur for her. She closed her eyes for a split second before the ball was delivered and..

“Six ..! Vidya it is 6 am! Don’t you have to go for cricket practice?” It was Vidya’s mother. 22-year old Vidya woke up with start and then wrinkled her nose.

 “No ma! I was about to win the match”, she said and again crashed on the bed.

Half an hour later, Vidya made her way to her college Ground, in Pune, clad in track pants and t-shirt with a sweatshirt loosely tied around her neck. A state level player, she was carrying her heavy kitbag with her, which was kind of contrasting her petite frame. She was lost, thinking about her dream when she felt reddish maroon leather zap past her. She waited for a second, looked up in the direction from which the ball came and saw a decently good looking guy, clad in jeans and sports t-shirt, atleast 10 years elder to Vidya looking at her sternly. While she picked the ball, threw it back to her team mate and ran towards the area where they were practicing, she wondered who that was.

She quickly kept her kit aside and was starting  her warm up when that guy came upto her, giving her a hard look, almost as if he had an x-ray equipment fitted inside his eyes.

“I don’t like those players who are late. How much ever good they are. So I am going to ask you to leave the ground”, he said.

Vidya was not the one to give up so easily. “Why should I do that, ‘sir’ or whoever you are?  I do not even know what are you doing here”, she said with scathing sarcasm.

“Well, miss, let me enlighten you”, he said, with a mean smirk. “Rahul Verma”, he continued, “Your temporary coach”.

Vidya looked at her teammates in astonishment, but composed herself. “I agree I am late,...” Vidya’s explanation was cut off by Rahul’s outstretched hand.

“See you after two days and better be on time Cinderella”, Rahul boomed.

Vidya glared at him, picked her kit without a word and started leaving the ground. As she did that, she could hear Rahul’s voice – “Come on girls, yes, faster, yes....” trail off behind her. “Rahul Verma! Huh”, she mumbled to herself, making a face.

Luckily for Vidya, the embargo lasted just a day and she was on the ground a day after. She reached unusually early that day. She saw Rahul practicing in the nets there and sat on the steps of the pavilion, watching him. “Hmm mean guy is not bad, eh?” Vidya thought. Rahul had a good physique, with broad and strong shoulders. Rahul leaned on to a cover drive with a languid ease just as Vidya was observing him. Suddenly she realized that he also saw her. Vidya quickly looked away, but it was too late.  Rahul finished his practice soon after. Vidya wanted to talk to him but was hesitant. A couple Vidya’s team mates had already started coming in. Finally, she gathered courage and went upto Rahul.

“Umm.. sir, I.. I just wanted to thank you for reducing a day from mandatory absence from practice. I will never be late again.” Vidya stuttered.

Rahul flashed one of his best smiles, and replied, “It was never going to be two days, Vidya. Your team mates told me about you that day after you left. I thought that I was probably too hard on you. So it is all good.”

Vidya smiled hesitantly, but Rahul’s charming dimples and the twinkle in his warm, brownish green eyes when he smiled had taken her over. Vidya was used to bowling people over with her off spinners, but here she was on the verge of being bowled over!

***

That night, Vidya stood in her living room balcony, her lovely wavy black hair being caressed by the cool evening breeze. Vidya was just reviewing the day gone by - the cricket practice was superb, but had to increase the intensity, inter- university tournament was around the corner. While thinking about the practice, her thoughts drifted on to Rahul. She shirked them away immediately, thinking it was silly and shook her head in condemnation. Just then she saw Rahul, he had a note in his hand and was probably looking for some address. Vidya observed what he was doing for a while and thought of calling him, but hesitated. A few minutes passed by, Rahul was still searching. Vidya turned to go inside, biting her lip as she wanted him to call her.  Just then Rahul called her. He gestured her to come down. Vidya went down and Rahul gave her an ID card. She was surprised to know it was hers.

“How and where did you find this and why did you come down so late?  You could have given it tomorrow”, Vidya quipped.

 “Relax, quiz master”, Rahul replied and then elaborated that while she was taking gloves for her rare batting practice, she did not notice her ID fall down near her kitbag. When Rahul noticed that, he had picked that up.

“Thanks a lot”, Vidya said, grinning. Vidya was wearing shorts and a spaghetti top which was adequately accentuating the best features of her physique.

“You are welcome”, Rahul replied, kicking his bike to start it. Vidya bade him good bye and then started walking towards her house.

“Vidya”, Rahul called. Vidya stopped and turned. “Good night.. and umm.. you look quite nice with your hair open….very different from what you are on the ground”, Rahul said and then zoomed away without looking back. Vidya could not sleep a wink that night.

The next day onwards, just as the intensity of the cricket practice increased, so did Vidya and Rahul’s relationship. Love blossomed. They used to meet every evening and enjoy each other’s company. Emotional closeness led to physical closeness too. They gradually realized that they had quite the same interests. That had got them very excited. One evening, though sitting in Costa Coffee when Rahul told Vidya about his impending divorce, Vidya stiffened. She looked away from Rahul and withdrew herself. As if on a cue, his ex-wife called him to inform him about the court hearing next week. Vidya was visibly uncomfortable. “Sorry, that was Neha”, he elucidated. Vidya was impassive. She changed the topic.

“We have the finals of Inter University in a week now. I am sure you have a strategy for getting the best out of the players.

 “Yes. I have.”  Rahul answered, a grim expression clouding his adorable facial features.  Vidya looked at him in anticipation.

“I am suggesting your captain to give you the bowling in early overs of the innings.” Rahul explained.

 Vidya looked at him with utter disbelief. “Have you gone out of your mind? I hope you understand what you are saying”, she glowered. She then realized she had spoken a bit too loudly as a group of youngsters at a table nearby looked on with curiosity. Suddenly Vidya felt stifled. Luckily for her, the bill had already been asked for. As soon as she saw the bill, she threw in her share and rushed out.

“Vidya, listen to me”, Rahul rushed behind her after paying the remaining amount. He caught up with Vidya soon enough. He grabbed her by her hand pulled her hard towards him.

“Why can’t you listen to me? This is for the team’s benefit. I think you have a lot of potential, more than what is exploited now. What I have observed and known is that you always bowl late in an innings. The result is that you are hit for runs, inspite of good deliveries. Still, you have managed to scalp a lot of wickets. Being a Ranji player, I now have the understanding of who’s good and who’s not. So I was thinking why not discuss with your captain and give you a chance to bowl earlier in the innings.” Rahul gushed. Vidya simply looked at him and walked away without a word. The traffic had become chaotic, with honking all around. Rahul and Vidya’s mental state was no different.

***

The D-day arrived soon and Vidya was up early. She got ready and touched her parents’ feet for blessings. Her mother made her eat a bit of ‘dahi’(curd) for good luck. Before leaving, her mother took her to a side.

“Give a thought to what I said, after the match”, she exclaimed.

Vidya simply nodded and left. She reached the venue a good two hours before the match and directly went to the changing room. Rahul made his way soon after. He entered the pavilion and saw the door of the girls’ changing room slightly ajar. He peeped inside and saw Vidya’s bare back. He was mesmerized to see her well toned back and was gripped with an overpowering rush of desire. He tiptoed inside and stood behind Vidya. Just then he realized that Vidya was struggling to disentangle her hair from her silver chain.

“Let me help”, Rahul said, softly.

 Vidya was startled for a second, then complied. Rahul did the needful and then turned Vidya’s hair completely to a side. He then gently caressed her back with his fingers and then kissed her on the back of her neck tenderly. A current was felt by Vidya running across her body.

“Sorry, I should have discussed the bowling plan with you”, Rahul murmured, kissing Vidya on her neck as she had turned to face him.

Rahul had held her very close to him and Vidya was being rapidly consumed by Rahul’s expression of love. Although she didn’t want him to, she made him stop midway by keeping her fingers on his lips.

“I am sorry. I didn’t try to understand your perspective. I think I should give myself that chance”, she said with a coy smile.

At that moment all the bottled up passion in both of them was led to flow freely. Vidya, surprising herself, held Rahul’s face close to hers and gave him a deep, passionate kiss on the lips. Rahul then took over, pinning Vidya to a wall for another bout of kissing when they heard muffled noises outside. They immediately withdrew. Rahul went out the other way, while Vidya regained her composure. Just as Rahul was out of sight and Vidya had put her t-shirt on, her teammates came in. They asked her as to why she looked so flushed. Vidya hastily explained that she did a few rounds of the ground. By then, Vidya’s captain was already out for toss. Captain Sarika had decided to bowl first.

“Come on ladies, we are on in 10 minutes”, she said, rushing in the pavilion for last minute talk with the team members. Saarika had a word with all the team members and final strategizing was done.

Soon, the first ball was bowled and the play was underway. Saarika’s mind was ticking already. Vidya was given the ball shortly and she made it count in the first over. Later Vidya was fielding near the pavilion and Rahul was not sitting far away from where she was standing. A while later Vidya saw a girl in late 20’s, smart, good looking clad in jeans and t shirt come towards Rahul. She gave Rahul a quick hug. Vidya vaguely heard Rahul say Neha. She wondered why is she here and that distracted her. Drinks were called soon and Vidya’s team huddled up. Post the drinks, Vidya’s Pune University team managed to restrict the opponents for 110 in 20 overs for 6 wickets. Vidya’s bowling figures were not very satisfactory. She knew the reason -Neha. In between the innings, while Vidya was going inside the pavilion to change, Rahul called her.

“Hey Vidya, can you spare a minute?” Vidya flinched, still went over to where Rahul and Neha were standing.

 “Vidya, this is Neha, umm, my ex-wife. She works as a financial consultant for a renowned bank. My 2 year old son Vivaan is in the crèche, he will be coming shortly.”

Vidya lost her balance for a split second on hearing that. For a moment, she blacked out. Vidya did not hear Rahul introducing Vidya to Neha as a talented player. Neha greeted her with a warm smile and an extended hand. Vidya greeted her and quickly excused herself to go in. As she was going inside, she saw Vivaan come with his caretaker. Rahul was a doting father and immediately picked him up. What came after that was a bolt of lightning for Vidya.

“Rahul”, she overheard Neha saying, “I am withdrawing my appeal for divorce.” Vidya heard that and was completely shattered.  As she went in, she dialled her home phone.

***

The opponents made it a bit tough for Vidya’s team, but finally, they made it, thanks to their captain’s quick fire 60. Rahul came running once again and joined the girls in the celebration. He later slipped away from the huddle and went out of the ground. After the jubiliation was over, Vidya sat on a bench in the pavilion, lost and broken. Neha’s words pierced through her heart -“ I am withdrawing my appeal for divorce.” That instant she made a decision, collected her cricket gear and left the ground. She reached home all numb from within and hurt. Her mother immediately sensed her mental state looking at her and asked if she was okay. Vidya just said yes. Although Vidya’s mother knew something was wrong, she did not probe further. Vidya went in her room and crashed on her bed, physically and emotionally drained. Just as she was trying to make sense of the events of the day, she got a call. It was her old friend Sameer. Vidya disconnected the call. It was followed by Rahul’s call. Ditto. She did not want to speak to anyone. A couple of weeks later, Vidya went for practice and college as usual. She found it strange that Rahul was not there, because it never happened that he was not on the ground for practice. It was another story that inspite of seeing him every day, Vidya had not spoken to him, though he tried hard. Infact Vidya had cut off any kind of communication with him. That day Vidya reached home a bit late in the evening. She rang the bell and to her shock, Sameer, her childhood friend opened the door. Her parents knew Sameer’s family since they were kids.

Their parents had even joked that once they grow up, they will get them married. But Sameer went to Australia to study filmmaking after he graduated. The two were not in touch for years together. A couple of years back they had got in touch through facebook. So Vidya was completely taken aback when she saw him.

“Hey Vids! So good to see you! How have you been? Long time”, Sameer said, enveloping Vidya in a bear hug.

While all this was happening, unbeknownst to her, her father and Sameer’s father were discussing about their probable wedding. Vidya was surprised and managed to smile. She liked Sameer, but that was that. Sameer easily got in to a friendly banter with Vidya. After a while she excused herself and went in to her room to freshen up. Sameer meanwhile went to speak to his mother.

While Vidya was changing, her phone rang, it was Rahul. Vidya ignored it. Then there was a  knock on her door. It was Sameer. Vidya wondered what the hell happened, when Sameer got down on his feet, with a ring in his hand.

“Will you marry me, Senorita?” Sameer popped the question.

Before Vidya could react, both his and her parents came in, beaming. While all this was happening, Rahul was outside Vidya’s house, thinking of ringing the bell, when he peeped in through, to see Vidya with a guy. What crushed him was that the guy inserted a ring into her ring finger. Rahul froze for a few seconds and his eyes became moist. He then regained his composure and quickly wrote a note. He slipped it in through a window of Vidya’s room and left. Totally devoid of emotions, his eyes appeared lifeless as he hit the road.

When Vidya was alone in the room, she saw the note. It was from Rahul.

“Dearest Vidya, I had come to ask you if you would marry me, but I saw you are happy with Sameer. Neha had said that she would like to reverse the appeal, but I didn’t let her. I wanted to be with you. I know you stopped talking to me because you were sure that the divorce will not come through. But it did, though now it is late. Wish you the best in life. I will always love you. Rahul.”

Vidya could not help but sob uncontrollably on reading the letter. She kissed the letter kept it inside a book on her table, just as Sameer knocked and came in. She quickly wiped her eyes. Sameer took Vidya’s hand and looked at her lovingly. She looked at him and then looked out through the window. The horizon looked fuzzy with monsoon clouds having taken over the skies. At a distance she saw Rahul’s silhouette…

 

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Kalamwali 08-May-2017 11:31

Wow!!! Heart wrenching

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