Baseball is a habit I wished I had forgotten.*Tunk* ahhhhhhh... the ball flew past the outfielders.
Go! Go! Run!
I dropped my bat and ran to first base. There was only one problem.
Cricket doesn't use bases.
Nooo! Don't drop the bat, stupid! they yelled.
I yelled an apology -- "Sorry! Sorry! Baseball!" -- and ran back for the bat.
Nooo! Don't run back to the bat. The wicket! The wicket! they yelled, half falling over from laughter. The American thinks he's playing baseball....
That hurt. But it bought me time.
I hurtled back toward the bat and reached down for the handle, digging my heels into the spongy springtime turf, reversing direction without a hiccup. In an instant, I was running toward the other wicket. The other batsman, laughing, could barely jog as he mirrored me, passing me in his path in-between the wickets, always opposite me in the back-and-forth sprint. We passed each other four times. Four points. I stopped at the wicket before they took the chance to tag me with the ball.
Try not to drop the bat this time.
I sighed and bit my tongue. My feet sank firmly in front of the first wicket, my knees bent like an erector set, ready to spring, as the wide, paddle-like bat hovered close by my side. Why did I wear the black Airwalks with the shallow rubber diamond soles? Even slippers would have given me more traction....Don't mess up, I repeated to myself.
Ali focused. Now that I think of it, I'm glad a former member of the Pakistani junior national team was throwing the ball. A single miscalculation, and my jaw, my arm, my knee, my -- well, you get the picture -- would be smashed by the hard, red leather ball's weathered surface. It could have been made of steel, for all I could tell.
Cricket balls don't sting, you see. They crush, crack, and mangle.
"Most cricket players have lost their front teeth," someome commented. But I didn't worry. Ali was bowling.
In Cricket, pitchers get a running start. Before he came to the opposite wicket, Ali leaped into the air, swung his long, bony arm wide, and thew the ball at the squishy ground.
Splot. It bounced.
I swung. The jolt passed through the lightweight bat into my bones.
Another hit. The ball flew of the angled bat into the grassy beyond. This time, I ran straight to the other wicket, holding the bat firmly in my hand. We scissored back and forth several times, until the ball finally caught up with us.
Good job, they said. You'll make a cricketer yet.
Sometimes, I wish the demands of school and life were not so rigorous. I haven't played since that day.