Right Arm Over

By Moti Nandy

Click here to buy Right Arm Over

Ananto returned to Calcutta on the evening flight. Jibon was waiting at the airport with his car. As soon as they hit Jessore Road, heading towards Nagerbazar, Jibon asked, ‘Why didn’t they have you in the team?’
‘I can’t say. I didn’t ask anyone about it, what’s the point?’
‘Still a good idea to know why.’

‘The East Zone selector wasn’t there. Who was going to speak up for me at the selection meeting? All the other selectors were busy pushing players from their own zones. There was no one to back me.’
‘Was Hariharan there?’

‘I heard he was coming, but he didn’t come. Although it was he who made me join the squad.’
‘Cliques. The chairman of the selection committee is in the anti-Hariharan group, and so are the North and Central Zone selectors. If drastic changes are made, and you want to get into the Test team, you’ll have to show them in Australia’s game against East Zone.’
‘What do I have to show?’

‘That you cannot be ignored anymore.’
Ananto was silent. After a while Jibon asked, ‘What sort of bowlers are Leslie and Madroff?’
‘Pretty good. They’ll get plenty of wickets in Ranji matches. But not Test-class yet.’
‘Really? How did they do so well then?’

‘Because none of our batsmen are Test-class either, except Usmani. He was yorked by pace in the first innings. Ambrose’s in-swing delivery dipped suddenly. But what a performance in the second innings! The spinners didn’t know where to pitch the ball. They’re still quite raw. Varde or Pillai or Bhojani will take the seam apart. But for some reason our batsmen became terrorized and surrendered their wickets to Leslie and Madroff. Two foreign spinners wreaking havoc on Indian soil—have you heard of such a thing in the past ten years?’
‘Both of them will play in this series though, I think.’

‘I doubt it. Bolan isn’t a fool. Getting all those wickets in a match like this doesn’t mean they’re Test-class—’ Instead of finishing what he was saying, Ananto screamed.
An old woman had suddenly appeared in the path of the car. Jibon braked hard, managing to stop an inch from her body. A bundle of nerves now, she ran across the road, forcing a taxi coming from the opposite direction to screech to a stop.

Jibon laughed. Ananto frowned at him.
‘What’s that for?’
‘How strange life is. She should have been thrown to the ground, but she crossed the road instead. No one gets what they were meant to get.’
For some reason Ananto felt Jibon was talking about himself. He had been desperate to play Test cricket. That would never be possible now. And Ananto was responsible for this, Ananto and Ananto alone. He would remember this all his life, and surely Jibon wouldn’t forget either. Ananto began to brood.
After the car turned right into Dum Dum Road from Nagerbazar, Jibon said, ‘What are you moping about?’
‘You’ll probably never be able to forgive me,’ Ananto said suddenly.
‘What’s that?’

‘I know it’s because of me that you couldn’t fulfil your ambition.’
Ananto looked fearfully at the road again as the car jerked to a stop with a harsh screech of the brake. Had they been about to hit someone else? But there was no one there. Turning towards Jibon, Ananto saw his right arm raised.
‘Say that again,’ Jibon’s voice was calm and cold as steel. ‘Say that again and see what this arm can do. One blow will crack your skull.’

Jibon continued driving. Neither of them spoke.
‘Jibon is angry with me,’ Ananto told his mother during dinner. ‘I said something to him on the way back.’ Telling her of the conversation, he said, ‘I can’t forget, Ma, I will never forget. I don’t think Jibon can, either.’
‘Yes, it isn’t possible to forget,’ a disturbed Tonima said. ‘But Jibon is a sensible boy, and large-hearted too. He knows that an accident can take place any time. No one does it deliberately. Still, I know your conscience keeps pricking you. There’s nothing to be done. He loves you like a brother.’
‘You know, Ma, when I saw his mangled hand that day I shouted, “You WILL play in the Test team, I will make it happen.” I feel wretched when I remember. What impossible things we say when we lose our senses! And yet he can go so far as to hope that India loses a Test so that I get to play.’
‘If you want to be freed from your guilt, Antu, fulfil Jibon’s wishes, wipe his pain away.’
‘How?’

Turning to gaze at her husband’s photograph on the wall, Tonima murmured, ‘He could have told you.’ After a few moments’ silence, she added, ‘Jibon will play Test cricket through Ananto. That will be your penance. If you win, so will Jibon, through you. Antu, your father used to say that the heart and mind are more important than the body. If those two are fully prepared, they can compensate for being underprepared physically.’
Ananto looked intensely at his mother. ‘How strange, I see Baba when I look at you.’

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