Artwork by Sarah Durrani

My dear Dolly,

Honestly, I didn’t see that doosra come into your life!

The news of your match-fixing with this spinner (or ginner – who cares?) sent my romantic aspirations into a tailspin. I feel a bit like a 99-year-old hitter who is called for a run by his trusted partner only to be shown his back when he’s halfway there.

A blocked midfield like this often shakes your faith in humanity and leaves you with a lasting sense of homelessness. I feel like an orphan again and can’t help but waste the chance to die from this concussion caused by a malevolent projector that forever turned me into a twelfth man and my concussion surrogate into an arrogant superstar, sporting peroxide hair at my expense. But this is another story.

My sneaky suspicions tell me that you were coerced and even bludgeoned across this boundary while I was on tour delivering drinks and magic sprays to the eleven players. It is most certainly the fault of your crafty old man who did not support my furtive visits to your “gutter”, thinking that you would make a night run at my call. He has ruled out our entire future. For too long, you’ve been his golden duck, spending all your salary on this hypochondriac’s imaginary illnesses. I mean, who can have 100 diseases and still live?

Honey, don’t relegate me to the level of a third man – the third man is the loneliest in the field. The poor guy is so distant that he can’t even seem to appeal or swear to vent his frustration. It is the privilege of men in underpants only.

A cricketer laments being abandoned by his beloved and plots to win her back, in a letter written in his love language – cricket, of course

To be honest, after that crucial last meeting with your dad (where, to my horror, he finally revealed he was a notorious ex-referee), it was clear he wouldn’t give me the green light. All the while, as I sat in front of him, he kept wagging his finger in front of my face, criticizing my views on love marriage.

To be honest, my heart sank at that point. The sight of a raised finger for a cricketer like me facing the ax is what beheading is for an ISIS hostage. Remaining optimistic in the face of such repeated finger-raisings was therefore impossible. It was a psychological homicide. After stepping out of his house, his finger continued to appear in a series of nightmares for weeks.

When I first met your father, he looked like a harmless Chinese, with a little pointed beard. A man of gestures, he made bizarre movements – apparently light exercises prescribed by his physiotherapist – stretching his arms or touching his shoulder curiously with his hand as if signaling “A short”.

I took that as a personal affront since, as you know, I’m a few inches shorter than you.

Once, when he threw his right arm in the air and started circling his hand, I was almost tempted to interpret it as an invitation for a free kick. Until then, he hadn’t made his rogue intentions clear, so there was no reason to get physical. In hindsight, I should have taken advantage of the offer. A good punch to the nose would have been gratifying for the screaming pinch hitter that’s been hiding deep inside me since childhood, scarring his face for good.

Looking back, my life is full of missed opportunities.

For example, when my cousin in New York sent me tips for a New Yorker he claimed to have invented while watching baseball up close, I ignored the suggestion when it might have changed the course of my career. And then there were also comprehension issues. When the courteous foreign trainer whispered shyly during team meetings that my armpits needed attention, I assumed he wanted me to try Jonty Rhodes-style runs. When he informed me that I pitched like no other, I took it as praise, not realizing he was calling me a chucker. Not being on the same wavelength with an English-speaking coach can literally end careers. I can testify to that.

Going back to your father, the tone of his voice was placid this last day. I tried my best to hook him, but he only ran his own agenda. At tea, he crouched oddly like a hired wicket-keeper in front of a spinner, his legs on either side of the chair and his palms open as if expecting to be fed by throws. Did your father have a deprived and starved childhood, perhaps with a bit of Darwinism for good measure? Or was it just an eccentric way of praying before meals?

All the while, we’ve been building an unsavory history between us (your father and me) that you may not be aware of. I once accosted him at a wedding and inadvertently had my leg in front of him as he began his greedy sprint towards the dining table as dinner was announced.

Naturally, he fell flat and started abusing me for getting in the way of my long leg. The incident was recorded by the wedding videographer and the replay suggested my leg was probably not in front. He played the recording to the man several times without choosing any conclusive evidence. However, he refused to give me the benefit of the doubt and asked other guests if they had moving recordings of it, taken from different angles. Even though I eventually pulled through, I now feel what a great leg I have that can make its own smart decisions.

My darling, just yesterday evening, I had the last presentiment of the tragedy that is befalling us. I saw you prancing happily on training grounds surrounded by a lush green field. Above us were clouds and below was a huge swing. You sat on it and threw yourself higher and higher.

Suddenly a loose shot is fired by a random carjacker on the street. The thief looks like your brother (although identities in dreams are often misleading), you panic and begin to fall from the highest point the swing had reached. I kept my eyes on that little red part of your dress the whole time and did my best to come underneath. It looked like a simple hold, a ‘dolly’ as they say in cricket. But the sun was right in my eyes and in the end, I misjudged the fall of my Dolly. I gave up, baby, a babysitter.

They say catch up games win and our dream game was over. Alas now in reality too. In this doomed first-class match, I had to be the man of the match. I could have boasted proudly in front of my envious friends that I had acquired the best match figure in your form. However, your scheming father had the last laugh and, like referee Shakoor Rana, flatly refused to start playing. I tell you he’s the bad ‘one in your family.

Is the quest to complete you as the Chosen Maiden complete?

“No, I must not give up,” said the voice inside.

I must rise from the ashes and begin to rebuild the sleeves of my life as a resolute tailor.

While I could have ended up as the 12th man in my cricketing world, I have the DNA of my grandfather, a brave night watchman known for his bulldog tenacity. Under his supervision, no one has ever dared to enter the owner’s house. Once he even shot a man in the leg with whom the owner’s wife was conveniently running away. The leg had to be amputated later and this earned Grandfather the appellation of “leg-cutter” accorded by other frightened lovers of the second and third wives. My grandfather was also credited with shooting at least two stray cats who sneaked off with heirlooms. He finally fell victim to the “nervous 90s” when, after knocking over a young girl, he succumbed to the frenzy on her wedding night, only to perish horribly near a 100. God bless his dreaded soul. The good news is that his features are safe with me.

In a rearguard action, I have to show the world that my tail can wag. I would give your father a taste of defeat and win the greatest test of my life in one day.

Ah, the plan is brewing in my head…

Covered head to toe in my full protective gear, I will ring the bell. Once he appears, I’ll start rolling up my sleeves, always humbly asking him one last time to avoid his attempt to separate two lovebirds. On this occasion, baby, you must provide me with extra cover by standing beside like a fearless short front leg of a cunning star fruit specialist. And if he stays stubborn, the feints will begin.

With the bat in my hand, I will start practicing all the strokes in my repertoire in front of him without contact. My bat will speak because I will wield it like a sword. Beyond breaking his crooked finger that he likes to show off so much, I plan on inflicting no physical damage on him. In retaliation, if he launches a “below the belt” assault via his golf ball, I will let my protective guard handle the ball. A mild heart attack might result from my threatening movements but, believe me, it will be a welcome and healing outcome for him. Once his haggard face drops like dead rubber, the triumph will be ours.

You see, a 12th man has nothing to lose in life. I also know that in normal times, he would never go back on his decision. Hence this treatment of death. The coward in him would soon be brought to his knees. Love always wins, I am told on good authority.

Don’t consider this plan just a silly point, but a masterstroke. I can’t wait to warm up, cut, smash, sweep. Do not worry. Your father will be fine. It’s just a trick to scare him and drive out the evil in him. I have never publicized anything and my strike rate is miserly.

After your dad declares his menacing plans, we’ll exhaust this gift and build a strong partnership away from home where things don’t get out of hand. We don’t need godfathers like your father who are harmful to health. Soon, after a quick delivery, the balance of our team is called to strengthen. Turning singles into doubles is our destiny.

Soon we will be three without a loss, bye excluded.

Yours sincerely,
Duckworth Lewis

The writer is the award-winning novelist of Melody of a Tear and The Liar’s Truth.

He tweets @Haroontheauthor

Posted in Dawn, EOS, July 3, 2022


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