Wednesday, December 14, 2011

31-29. Boy. What a match.

Originally written on 12th Jan, 2011. ( LOL!. See what I mean by being handcuffed to the past? I meant, 12th Dec, 2011...I just don't want to edit the above part for posterity purposes :P)


31-29. That’s what the score-board read after 50 minutes of exceedingly fun yet tension-filled volleyball match at school. It was definitely one of the most exciting matches I’ve played and the best in the past 6 months. And, guess what? It wasn’t even played in our games period. We got lucky because the girls from the Xth and IXth grade had dance practice so, we were left free to play volleyball. We owe them one.

                The following 2250+ words are entirely on the above match. My friends managed to coerce me into writing a blog-post and here it is.

                The teams, if you ask me, were a bit off-balance but they worked out pretty well.

‘Our’ Team : Me, Ibrahim, Harindra, Vijay and Hussain.
Their Team : Aniket, Ahmed, Rounak, Harichandra, Mustafa and Aditya.

                Before I go any further, let me just give you a brief idea of how the teams were stacked against each other.

In ‘my’ team(I’m allowed to call it that. No?), 4 of us play pretty well, Me, Ibrahim, Harindra and Vijay. Hussain also plays the upper-arm pass nicely but whenever he has to pass using his under-arm, I get a heart attack. However, he serves pretty awesomely and also ‘understands’ when I tell him stuff.  Harindra’s the tallest among us 5 so, he is the ‘spiker’(or smasher as we call them). Yours truly is the setter because that’s the position I’ve spent the most time on. Ibrahim took the centre pass as well as some of the back portions because he’s pretty agile and can move all over the court. Vijay was beside Ibrahim and Hussain took care of the back zones.

                Their team, on paper, to be very honest, looked weak. Only two of them, Aniket and Ahmed can be called ‘on par’ with the four in our group however, their under-arm pass is a cause of concern for them. But, their upper-arm passing ability more than makes up for it. And Ahmed, well, he places the ball exceedingly well. Something that I’ve been trying to get my team-mates to do but never could. The rest of them, well, there’s this guy called ‘Harichandra’ who’s as tall as a giraffe but is not of much use. Rounak, he can pass the ball on the other side of the court from his position but if you make him back up a few steps, he’s bound to pass the ball awry. Aditya’s under-arm pass is enviable but, make him play the upper-arm and he’s in trouble. Mustafa plays both the passes with ease but you never know when he’s going to get the pass correct.

                So, on paper, we were ‘stronger’ and clear favourites but the game told a different story. Their team had 6 players and each could cover a specific zone but for us, we had a guy less that made Ibrahim run all over the court but he managed it pretty well. Also, there’s one more thing that I have to mention before I go any further. Their team only concentrates on sending the ball over the court while on the other hand, my team tries to smash it over and ends up losing a lot of points due to bad tries but, we keep trying. You’ve got to commend us for that!
                The game started with Ahmed serving the ball from their side. Ibrahim managed a good pass but I messed up a bit on the lifting the ball and Harindra missed hitting it and we lost a point. The next ball was similar and they were two up. That’s when we pepped our game up a bit and gained a point but soon lost the serve the very next ball.
                Some time later, the scoreboard read 3-8. We were 5 points down and it was their serve.
I’ve grown used to these kinds of scoreboards. My team doesn’t do that well at the start but peps up the game at the very end. We have a track record of not scoring a lot of points during the first 15 points. We almost always come from the behind and win the game, a lot like team India during their Windies tour. We take inspiration from Shahrukh Khan. “Har kar Jeetne Waale ko Baazigar kehte hai.”
                We kept serving, passing, shooting, blocking and all. My team gelled together pretty nicely. Everyone was happy (atleast I think they were). Hussain did make a few serving errors at the start but soon pulled himself up. We left the ‘serving’ part to him and he did it pretty nicely. Ibrahim and me shifted places a few times due to varying reasons. I trusted my intuition to tell me when it was time to change. It hasn’t failed me much.

                Moving away from the match, I for one, like having those people in my team who don’t question my authority. I mean, there’s a frigging (:O) reason for every decision I take. I do think quite a bit before taking it. More often than not, my plan works. Sometimes, it doesn’t and I take full responsibility for it.

                Today, I wasn’t in my prime form to be entirely honest. I made a lot of mistakes but, did I make up for them? I think I did. Though not directly, I think I played a pretty important role indirectly.

                Anyways, the match went on. It was, 14-19 or something similar. I started ‘panicking’ a bit now. I told my team-mates to pull up and not make mistakes (aah, the irony) Now, when I start panicking, I put stuff on a tight-leash. I only allow the stuff that I’m okay with. Stuff that I know will go right more often than not.
One such thing was the serve. Now, Hussain serves nicely but, when he serves I have this sense of insecurity inside me. I never know when he’s going to do a right serve or a wrong one. So, I decided to take that under my control. I gave the serving job to Ibrahim.

                It’s Ibrahim’s “dream” to serve using the upper-arm but, unfortunately, I don’t allow him to do so. Actually, I do, only during the starting stages of the match when we can afford to lose a point or two. But, not after the scores have crossed 20 points. That’s because the team can’t afford it! When he ‘executes’(ahem ahem) the upper-arm serve, I have no idea if the ball’s going to go properly or not. On the other hand, his under-arm serve is sure to be executed proper 95 times out of 100. So, I gave the serve to Ibrahim and told him to do the under-arm serves because then, I’ll have this sense of security inside me. I’ve played a lot of volleyball with him and trust him. And, Ibrahim didn’t disappoint me. He did make an error once but his other serves more than made up for it.

                Also, Hussain’s under-arm pass isn’t one that I can trust always. My heart skips a beat whenever the ball goes towards him. No offence meant man, I just hope you get what I mean. So, I told him to let Ibrahim take his passes. Had it been anyone else, they would’ve ‘rebelled’ but, not Hussain. He just ‘understood’ and nodded his head. Aah. I love the guy :P

                5 minutes later, the score read 19-23. Red Alert. Red Alert. My heart started beating twice as fast. I told my team-mates that we can do it and the events that followed sure did surprise me. We stopped passing the ball around thrice before sending it over the other side. Also, harindra stopped trying to smash. He just sent the ball sailing over the other side of the net.

                Here’s one specific ball that I remember.

In a small rally, the ball goes over the Hussain and as he prepares to pass the ball using the under-arm pass my heart beats 10 times as fast. He doesn’t connect it properly and I see the ball falling on the ground just a few feet infront of me. It felt as though the whole world was crashing down. That’s when the ‘saviour’, Vijay, comes out of nowhere and by a freak shot (a wild swing of his arms) sends the ball the other side. Phew.
                Somewhere during this period, there was a long-long rally. Both sides kept their cool and tried their best to send the ball over the net. However, one member from their team made a mistake. His instincts took over him and he ‘smashed’ the ball and it went outside the court. Duh.

                20-23. 21-23, 22-23, 22-24. 23-24. 24-24.

You can imagine the thoughts racing through our minds as the game went on. Everyone was determined to win. No one wanted to lose. We had worked so hard for it. We leveled the scores with some awesome rallies. We tried every trick in the book (ahem ahem) and managed to get the scores leveled.

24-25. 25-25. 25-26. 26-26

                All our hearts were beating ten times their normal pace. We were playing our hearts out. Every time the ball went over the net, we sighed a relief but were as alert as the FBI when it came back in.
There was a sense of disbelief hanging in the air.

                When someone made a mistake the whole team was like “Aaah!” but we kept our cool. We just told them “aah. hard luck mate.” I saw to that no one cursed one another :P I mean, we all were like “mistakes happen.” Not so much for the other team. Every time someone of them made a mistake, they were all like –I don’t know-. They brought in ‘reforms’ everytime someone made a mistake. They crowded around the person who made the mistake and let out some ‘grumbles’. We just stayed where we were.

26-27. 27-27. 27-28. 28-28. 28-29. 29-29.

                It was becoming surreal by now. We jumped up with joy for every point. There were shouts of “YES!!” for every point that we won. That’s how volleyball should be. Nerve-wracking.

The scoreboard read 29-29. The bell had rung 7 minutes ago but we kept playing. Nothing (the principal doesn’t count) could stop us until we finished the match.

                Then, for the first time, since 24-24, we got a lead. A one-point lead. All this time, we were trying to not let them win it but now, it was their turn. They had to make sure we wouldn’t win by gaining a point.

                Ibrahim served it and the ball went over the net. Aniket passed it directly over the net. Ibrahim passed back. Ahmed-Aniket-Ahmed over the net. Ibrahim. Ahmed. Vijay-me-Harindra over the net. Then, the ball went to the character called “Harichandra”. Remember him from the start? Well, he passed the ball over the net. I thought he managed to do it correctly.

I saw the ball travel from the top of the net to our side of the court in slow-motion. It travelled and travelled and travelled. I glanced to see who was going to take it. I saw both Ibrahim and Hussain kneeling down. I assumed they both wanted the other one to take it.

0.5 seconds to impact – No one’s underneath the ball. I’m all like “WHAT THE. SOMEBODY TAKE IT!”

0.3 seconds to impact – Hussain is practically on the ground now and Ibrahim’s just a spectator beside him.

0.1 seconds to impact – I lose all hopes of finishing the game. The game’s going to continue till 32.

0 seconds to impact. ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then, a nano second later, it struck me. The ball fell outside the court. YAHOOO!

We won the match!!!!!

Boy. What a game it was.

True that we didn’t have the smashes that we usually do, we played ‘mediocre’ volleyball. But, more importantly, we had FUN. That’s what sports are all about. FUN. You must enjoy playing them and I sure did today. Winning was just the cherry on the top of the cake. I would’ve enjoyed the game just as much even if we had not won.

                The tension was worth watching. I loved the shouts of “YES” that emanated from us after every point and the sense of disbelief that hung in the air when the last ball went outside the line. They were all like “It’s over? Just like that?”

                I think the main reason why this match was so interesting was “Team-work”.

Every single player in my team played an important role in the match. Harindra’s forced passes at the end got us much needed respite. Ibrahim’s agility helped cover the whole court and left no place for Ahmed to place the ball too. Vijay was always there where Ahmed usually places the ball and took the passes with almost cent percent precision. Hussain serve’s gave me a sense of security at the start and then, he made a jewel of a decision at the end to leave the ball. Me? Let me think. I did ‘okayish’ at the setting part. I think, my main role in the game was to marshall my troops to victory. Coming to think of it, maybe I didn’t play that big a role after all. It was probably because of me that the game even came close. Had I not made the mistakes that I did, they wouldn’t even have come close. My role in the game wasn’t big. It didn’t need to be. Each one of us contributed in their own way and in the end, that’s what made us victorious. Also, a big thanks to my team-mates for not ‘mocking’ me when I made the mistakes. I owe you one.

                Anyways, it was fun reliving the match over here. This game’s going to be etched in my memories for a long-long time to come.   

It’s been fun writing 2200+ words but I now have to go study for my Hindi Unit test tomorrow. 

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