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All in the game

By Usha Mukunda, Dec 5 2017, 0:26 IST

Now that I have reached the number 75, I can understand how a batsman feels as he moves into the last quarter of his anticipated hundred. At 50, it was not so portentous. There was a satisfaction that I had reached a respectable score and withstood "the ills and fortunes the body is prey to." I figuratively raised my bat to my friends and family, and up to the heavens as well. Good to keep on the right side of you-know-who. Then I was back to my job of keeping my reputation and that of my 'team' intact.

Now that I am close to three quarters of a century, I find I am fading a bit, my eyes are less sharp but I can still deflect all that comes at me with passable grace and finesse. Time passes a little too quickly now. Suddenly, I am aware that I am slowing down, my breath comes faster and I wonder whether I need a runner/walker? Not as yet, it seems, so I soldier on and the applause comes more often.

"Really? Can't believe you are blah, blah, blah!" "You look just the same" (Hah!) I check on myself. Eyes: a bit suspect. Ears: the thwack of the ball seems more and more distant. Back: bearing up. Knees: OK, except for an occasional twinge... Oh, oh! That one almost got me. I must not let my mind wander. I wish I could remember the names of the ones I am facing. I have them on the tip of my tongue. Nevermind. I am sure I will remember by and by, but does it matter?

Before I know it, the moment arrives. 75 and batting! Celebrations and congratulations! I accept them graciously but am barely able to lift the (now heavy) bat. From across the wicket we have shared for so long, my partner says, "Are you alright? Take it easy. I can manage." But can he? He has been pretty long at the crease too, and seen many of his predecessors fall by the wayside. "No, I can do it," I say a bit hesitantly.

Then from the pavilion, a youngster runs up with a message, "The next batswoman has already put on her pads, so you can retire." Should I? Is this my last milestone? What about the record I wanted to beat, the accolades I anticipated so greedily? Should it end thus? But wait, let me just check the statistics? I recollect that one of the two players before me got out at 59! But alas, he was struck by a lethal bouncer and was carried off. What about the other? Ah, a respectable 92. But she had to be helped on and off the field for everything. Surely I don't want to be declared lbw (lost between wickets?)

I look around at the many familiar faces I have played with, their love and respect clearly visible even through the cataracts in my eyes. I beckon to the umpire and with a quiet gesture, put down my bat. He nods. He is the ultimate arbiter of my fate and he approves!

I walk out with my head held high and the next batswoman passes me on her way to the crease. "You will be great. Good Luck!" I say, and she smiles, eager to show her mettle. As I approach the far pavilions, I can discern younger and younger batsmen and batswomen, ready and waiting. For their turn.

A great sense of ease and calm comes over me. Unlike Ulysses, I will no longer struggle "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." A new horizon beckons. Who knows where that may take me?

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