Sunday, November 26, 2017

Weekend Cricket Lessons - Aarav's Fighting Spirit

'Sir, Aarav cannot play to day sir,' said Hardik. 'He is badly hurt.'
Young Aarav had apparently been pushed by someone at school and his elbows and knees were badly bruised. So badly that he was in obvious pain while walking or throwing.
He looked forlorn. I thought maybe it was because of the pain.

'I told him not to play today,' said Bhupinder who was coaching them. 'But he wants to play.'
That was what he was sad about. That he could not play despite his willingness to endure the pain. What an opportunity for him.
'Can you play? Do you want to?' I asked.
His face lit up.
'Yessir,' he said.
'Then play,' I said. 'Do as much as you can.'
Bhupinder was intrigued. I waved him on.
And so Aarav played the entire session, bowling with a straight leg, hobbling around and even wanting to take dive catches. Finally it happened that the bruise got rubbed against something and it bled. But it meant nothing to young Aarav while all other boys were running about shouting 'it's bleeding sir'.
But not a peep from the young hero who merely winced and smiled and took it in his stride.
Unbelievable spirit.

GN is one of the older boys. While Aarav is in his fourth class, GN is in his eighth. GN is a very talented cricketer with lots of time to play the ball and an easy action while bowling. He was a natural and his basics were in place. In fact I had told Baig sir to watch him and take him under his wing. Now, GN was bowling a nice long spell when Baig sir nodded to me.
'Tell him to pad up,' said Baig sir and I told GN to pad up.
'Sir I cannot bat today sir,' he said.
'Why? Didn't you get your kit?' I asked.
'No sir,' he replied.'But my leg is hurting slightly. I cannot bat.'
He had bowled for the past 45 minutes with no sign of discomfort. He walked normally. What was wrong?
'Pad up,' I told him. 'If you can bowl, you can bat.'
He padded up and batter completely normally.
After his stint I told him to look at Aarav struggling to walk but bowling in the next net for juniors.
'Know why he is walking like that?' I asked.
GN shook his head.
I explained. I told him to bear some pain if he wanted to be a cricketer, a hero. We looked for that kind of a spirit in champions.

It is not about talent finally. If GN has ten times Aarav's talent, I would still pick Aarav in my team first. No two ways about it. So many talented cricketers lose it because they do not have the guts to spill, the courage to stand up and bear some pain. They want to return to the pavilion when the team most needs them. And then there are cricketers who stand there with broken legs, hands, noses and give their all for their team. The choice is easy.

I remember playing with a broken nose, a fractured finger, with a nail sticking up my shoe that drilled a deep hole in the eight overs I bowled in that pain, bowling with a back condition gritting my teeth knowing that my spell with the new ball was important, staying on field with a torn hamstring and bowling my quota and helping my side win - it gives such pleasure to recount those stories. And of my many mates who performed such heroics - Suresh batting with a broken nose and scoring 97, Vidyut taking a taking straight on his chest while fielding in a tight game, Tony batting with a stitched up eye.

In the end when I told the rest of the kids that this is what we look for in champions - they all clapped for Aarav today. We voted him 'Hero of the week'. He was mighty embarrassed and pleased with the idea.

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