Off The Field

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Take 1 : The Phone Call

"50 million for a match, deal or no deal....." said a voice in a very threatening tone.

He abruptly disconnected the call. Rehaan was a young 24 year old Indian Cricketer. He was the Captain of the team. The call woke him up before his alarm could. He was still a little sleepy, his eyes told.

He had received such a call for the fifth time, since the tournament had begun. At first, he thought, it's just some crazy fan trying to gain his attention, but with each call, Rehaan's belief was crumbled and he had to digest the fact, that, it was for real.

‘50 million is my country's​ worth? Is it bigger than my country?', he thought.

He was approached for spot-fixing​. He was shell-shocked. He thought he should report it to the cops, but then he got to remember, they had warned him of their sources being around him and also in the police force, so he shouldn't try to do the mistake. Whom will he talk about it? How will he sort this out?

Suddenly, the doorbell of his room, rang... It was Mr.Peter, the Team Coach.

"Hey Skippsy! Where have you been? Don't you wanna attend the team meeting? We have an all important game coming up!...", said the friendly coach.

But, Rehaan was invested in something else. Without even answering to the coach, he got his clothes up and straight away headed with him towards the auditorium, all in a hurry. The phone call made him forget to execute his morning chores and he failed to realise that, he missed his morning walk and work out.

Seeing him busy in some other world, the Coach decided to head the meeting, unlike other days, when the Captain used to lead the meeting and the Coach used to do the behind the scenes work. It was a surprise of a different kind for every one.

Half an hour past nine the meeting got over and everyone headed for their breakfast. Rehaan didn't bother to answer to his friends and​ team-mates, who were trying to have a talk with him, and started munching his breakfast quickly, unlike the other days, when he was the slowest amongst the team. He wanted to rush back to his room as early as possible today.

"What happened Skippsy, you look worried, aren't you? You haven't spoken a word yet? Something, worth sharing with me?", the coach asked with a worried thought.

"Sir, nothing, just a little tensed about our position in the tournament so far.We've lost two matches on the trot", Rehaan said, letting out a tensed breath.

The Coach had a worried expression on his face as it was for the first time in his tenure so far, had he heard Rehaan saying he was tensed about the team's performance. Usually, the captain would never think too much about how good or bad the team was doing when off the field. Despite that, he took it all in a usual way and walked away.

On the way back, after breakfast, Rehaan came across some fans asking for autographs and photographs. He lifted his mood and started obliging the fans. He had to act normal now.

He feared, if someone spots his worried face, it might become a headline of the following day. A sportsman has to act fake, once the spotlight is on.

But, he had a sense of satisfaction, that, despite the dismal start, the fans were still behind the team, hoping for a better show the next time the team takes the field.

On the other hand, he was dreaded to imagine, how hard will it hit all these smiling faces, if the game gets polluted by those minds who were chasing him...

The fans, 40-50 of them, were mostly the visitors of the restaurant of the hotel. Some of them were the guests of the hotel as well. Many of them wore the team merchandise and were chanting Rehaan's name aloud, waiting for their books, jerseys, caps, bats, and whatever they had to be autographed. Some of them had their cameras on and were clicking his photos or waiting for selfies with the Captain.

"Despite on the wrong end, you played a very good innings Sir, only if we could win it!..." Exclaimed a little fan.

"Sir! I was at the stadium, when you hit your maiden 100! I can't forget that!" exclaimed another.

"Thank You everyone. I assure you'll a better performance in the next game", letting out a deep breath, Rehaan announced in a quiet tone and made his way towards the walkaway to his room. This area allowed only the hotel staff and the guests to enter.

The threatening phone call was still reverberating in his ears, as he sat on the bed. He had never, ever thought of getting approached for such a crime even in the worst of his nightmares.

Rehaan found it hard to understand that, despite his rejection these people were calling him again and again. This gave the indications that, the results may be more dangerous than they already seem to be. He was tensed. Neither was he allowed to share it with anyone, so that, they could help him out with a solution, nor he himself was able to find a solution to all this. He decided to give his tensed mind a rest.

Half an hour past lunch, he packed up his kit bag and headed straight to the team bus. The stadium was a half an hour's drive from the team hotel. There were only a few more players joining him, other than the coaching staff and the trainers, as it was an optional net session. After the drills, he and the coach had a look at the pitch, which was to be used for the game.

"Sir, don't you think, Sudhanshu should receive his cap, the next game? The pitch and the breeze suggest an additional pacer in the team", he said.

"The idea sounds good. He gives us a lot of options. The spinners haven't done well and we need depth in the batting, so, one of the three tweakers can be rested... We can experiment him, despite the fact that, it would be a huge responsibility on him to make his debut in a big tournament", replied the Coach.

Rehaan called out the young lad, "Sudhashu, come here!"

The young well bodied all-rounder passed the ball to one of the net bowlers and ran towards his national Coach and Captain.

"Sir", reported the youngster.

"You playing the next game.Are you okay with all the pressure around the match?" Rehaan asked in a polite tone.

"It's a privilege Sir", replied the young boy.

"Okay then get to the team bus on time tomorrow and please stop calling me Sir, you're not at your school" Rehaan replied patting the young boy back. In response, Sudhanshu just nodded his head and headed back towards the nets.

It was close to dusk, as the session got over. Rehaan was over with what had happened in the morning and looked in a different mood. He was having a good time with the other players.

As he reached his room, he opened his cellphone. He had received a message from his father, which was of a routine nature. He replied to it. His social media was flooded with thousands of messages. He found himself busy with replying to some fan requests and messages. He was a very active person on the web, often replying​ to fans and the media.

He had the norm of sleeping after having light dinner. But, something struck and he wasn't able to sleep. Thoughts of what had happened with him, had again started going through his mind.

"I need to forget this and concentrate on what's coming, I can't keep myself worried about this over and over again. I have a huge responsibility on myself and I have to be honest with my work", he thought to himself.

He dimmed the lights and closed his eyes hoping that the matter is buried as the night passes. But, somewhere deep inside, he feared if this was only the start to something​ bigger....

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