The atmosphere bore some heaviness, not just in a literal sense. A huge cauldron was beginning to surround him. At 41, this may have been the final frontier, the final nail in the coffin. But he saw it differently. He had a point to prove. So much had happened in the past six years that it had become a bitter pill to swallow for him. Dumped unceremoniously from his team and his credibility in a shambles. Some would have said what a waste of a talent, a prodigy that went wrong.
But Kabir was granted a lifeline. His selection was inexplicable. Perhaps the selectors knew something the rest of the world didn’t. The moment was nearing soon…this was the time! This was the time Kabir would rise again or forever disappear and become an anonymity to society! He took one last deep breath and slowly strolled along the lush green field…
Camera flashes, steely eyed glares. Everyone seemed to be baying for his blood. Kabir Haja was a national hero, both on the sporting front and for his people. A talented prodigy that would later become a protagonist for his attacking flair. Cricket was his love, his one passion he adored since the time he picked up a bat at the age of 5. His father, Zakir, a cricket tragic identified something his beloved Almighty had blessed him with…a talented son who could go on to make a big name for himself and carry the family name proudly on his shoulders. Now at 35, it seemed that whole dream was to vanish without a whisper.
Corruption scandals linked to match fixing; accusations of scandalous affairs with big time celebrities from the movie industry; an alleged bribe given to a selector to be selected…Kabir’s head was beginning to spin. Someone wanted to nail him for these alleged wrong doings…but who? Was it someone who was enraged with jealousy, so much so that they went to this extent? Kabir’s misgivings could be understandable…there seemed no way out of this mess. The adoring fans who believed in him felt robbed, they wanted him to pay. Deep down though Kabir knew it was all wrong. His last moments seemed to be upon him. He had enough; was it worth the blood and sweat for his country? He could leave it all and keep all those wonderful and cherishing moments of victory and toil as a remembrance of the celebrated career he had built up for himself from scratch.
He felt lost and in despair. Laila, his long lost love, friend, and wife deserted him, angry at the outcome of their marriage and how she felt cheated. His parents were no longer in this world, and his friends estranged themselves, almost cowardly Kabir felt. His only sanity was that the allegations were difficult to prove. The selectors lost faith and finally asked him to go. He was a ‘free’ man; yet deep inside he was shackled by his sorrows and this confusion. He wore a tired look, some stubble showing on his fallen face, a sign of the hard times encountered in the last few months of facing the media‘s madness and desperation to get his side of the story. This was the last press conference. Kabir was once known for his confident and impressive dealings with the media. He had a magnitude of a personality, with the fairer sex often being swooned by him. Now he seemed gloomy, almost in a hurry to complete these last rites. As he stared at all and sundry around him, he only had one thing to say…”I am done! There is nothing more to say from my side. My agent will answers all the other questions”. At first stunned silence rocked the media personnel. What’s this, he has nothing to say they thought in amazement? There was a sense of confusion in the room. Kabir slowly got up and walked out, escorted by security personnel. He had no idea what he was about to embark on. Perhaps he would embark on a journey many would not have the courage to face; a journey where he was in solitude, content with himself and withdrawn from the society that so once marvelled at him and his exploits on the cricket field. Redemption was the furthest thought from his mind.
Kabir’s legs are like lead, as he once more strides onto the field towards the wicket, his slow strides symbolic of a journey that has become weary in recent years. His mind was a minefield with thousands of thoughts running through…do I have it in me to do this? The temptation was there to turn around and forget this all was happening. Kabir was a wreck the night before, unsure if the path he had chosen would exonerate him from all the supposed indiscretions all those years ago.
He approached the crease, hands slightly greasy with sweat, evidence of the ‘momentous’ occasion and its effect on Kabir. His eyes no longer resembled that wide, gleaming look he had in his youth. The soul was there eager and bristling at the edge to tell its own story…the body was not willing. Kabir knew this was the moment he could prove to all that what happened all those years did not kill his legacy. His family may have been no more but this was about pride and honour to his name and to his humble and proud parents. He was slowly willing himself on. The heart started pounding harder. The bowler made his mark; he had a sinister look about him…I’m here to finish you old man…you don’t belong here. Kabir let his fears vanish. He slowly accumulated all his faculties and movements to get into the groove.
First ball: Whack! Right into Kabir’s chest. The pain was excruciating! A booing sound was slowly gathering around the stadium. “Go home” shouted some in increasing aggression. Kabir hopped around a bit. The doctor had his mark set to come out and attend to him but Kabir raised his hand firmly to him, denying him permission to enter. There was no way Kabir was going to give up now…the fight was on…redemption was written all over his face.
Kabir managed to survive some telling signs of aggression from his opposition. He slowly started to work his old magic, yielding his willow like those old magical times when the crowd would become enthused by his skills. The moment was beginning to appear scripted…Kabir was now facing the last over needing 10 runs for victory. His body started tightening with the tension and anticipation of achieving some lasting dignity and victory! First ball, Kabir has a wild swish at the delivery, his arms feeling cramping sensations. There is a gasp from the crowd…can he do it? People who were once committed tormentors and foes of Kabir’s were now egging him on while staring in adulation at this 41 year old’s courage and determination.
Second ball, again a swish! Everyone’s silence was heard now. The atmosphere could be cut like a hot knife through butter. Kabir tried to calm himself down, talking to himself with positive words. He knew he had to just make contact with one delivery and he would reach his zenith. Third ball he makes contact and two runs are taken. Eight left to win! Three balls. Fourth ball and Kabir misses again! Now the crowd is jeering, more so in anger that the Almighty was not giving a helping hand to this man looking for redemption. Fifth ball and Kabir makes two runs. The final delivery…six runs needed and Kabir knew one hit would seal his fate. As he looked up he saw a familiar figure in the crowd. A slender woman whose ethereal beauty he could not forget. As she gazed and turned towards him their eyes met briefly. It was Laila. No smile was forthcoming from her…but Kabir’s soul was replenished with her sight…he could now focus on the final task ahead with added faith and support.
The final moment seemed to be slowing each second, with each second beginning to feel like eternity. The bowler thudded along as he ran in to deliver the final delivery…this was it! Kabir’s eyes lit up and swung with all his might and ferocity…it seemed a current sprung through his charged up body…WHACK!!! Kabir murdered the ball way over the long stand over the longest part of the stadium! SIX!!!!!! The roar was heard, euphoria was all abound! Kabir won the game! He was in shock! People rushed to him, some hugging, some trying to grasp a piece of his clothing. He was mobbed! It seemed the legend was reborn.
As Kabir began to leave the field pressmen hounded him for questions and insights of the feelings he was having after competing in one of his finest hours as a sportsman. Kabir though had someone else on his mind. He searched all over for Laila, almost frustratingly since she could be not located. Then he received a delicate pat on his shoulder…he quickly turned and Laila stood in front. She seemed to contain an uplifting energy. She was more beautiful now Kabir thought. As she looked up to him she said ,”You were great! I missed you!” They both embraced in a long hug! He had won over his lady love again.
As Kabir and Laila reconciled and built their relationship over the next few months there was still the unanswered question of the source of all the allegations made all those years ago. Journalists dug deeper to find something. After much agonizing and consternation it all came to a stop after 3 months. Kabir’s old best friend spread the rumours apparently being jealous of his fame and rise to celebrity. His friend dearly loved Laila and wanted her; the only way he could remove Kabir was to tarnish him in society so that Laila would leave him. Kabir was relieved though. His image and reputation were restored. He had achieved redemption!
The legend of Kabir had risen again!
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