This article appeared in my Sunday column 'Un Intended' in The New Indian Express on September 12, 2010.
WHAT HAPPENS WHILE BOWLING A NO BALL
Such a hue and cry is being made about the fixing episode. ‘Players are bowling no balls and making millions’, cry angry fans worldwide. Though everyone appears to be bowling no balls deliberately these days, fact is that it is not easy to bowl no balls in such situations. Only few can. Let us now understand the fixee’s (fixed player’s) mind, so one can appreciate his special skills.
To bowl a no ball in such an atmosphere calls for great integrity, alacrity and skill. Firstly, the players are suddenly required to do something on purpose instead of purposelessly pottering away on the field for days on end which is what cricketers normally do. All their life, in careers spanning over decades, bowlers bowl ball after ball, hoping something may happen – maybe a wicket, maybe a no ball, maybe a boundary. But now for the first time, responsibility has been fixed. Oops! Things must happen as planned. One no ball on the 5th ball of the 9th over please.
Fixee gets into peak preparedness practicing no balls at nets. Good. Match starts. Is this the 9th over or the 8th over he asks the 12th man nervously. He checks the scoreboard repeatedly, counts with his fingers, strikes off lines on his face cream after each over like Robinson Crusoe. Cannot afford to miss the blasted over. A doubt gnaws suddenly. Will the captain give him the required over? He trains a sharp eye on the captain for signs of betrayal. But the captain is busy. He has many responsibilities. There are other balls to be bowled as well.
Captain beckons. Fixee is relieved. He smiles widely. Whatever happens I must bowl five balls in this over he thinks. Sixth ball can go to hell. Hey, but if I am injured on the fourth ball, am I insured? He looks desperately at the stands to clarify. Nothing. He looks at the heavens. Dark clouds. OMG. What if it rains? Have they put that clause in? Will the Duckworth Lewis method be used? Do these chaps even know of D&L? He runs in to bowl the four balls quickly.
‘No ball,’ cries the umpire. Fixee is upset. He knows it’s not a no ball. He’s the expert on no balls. Now he has to bowl another ball. Sh##, now is the fifth ball the 5th ball or the sixth ball the 5th ball? God, he cries out in agony, let me go with the 5th. Should I run smoothly or should I stutter and splutter? And how big a no ball should I bowl? 2 inches, 6 inches, 1 foot, jump over the batsman? Why were they not clear about all this? What if I miss bowling a no ball with all this confusion? Will I get another chance the next ball, or is that ball fixed for someone else?
Ah. The big ball. Fixee is about to bowl his fifth ball and stops midway in cold sweat. What if the cranky umpire does not spot the no ball? He is not spotting anything anyway. If he does not, should I point it out to him? In the spirit of the game? The captain can help. We can insist that the umpire declare it a no ball. Third umpire intervention. Hey, maybe the captain can shoot it on his mobile phone as proof. If he misses, will the tv cameramen get it? Have they been fixed? If not, how do I prove my integrity to these guys?
‘No ball!’ Aaah! Yes, I did it! Hey, why is the lad celebrating?