June 25, 2013
Situation was very tight. Semi-final match between Mountania and Rockystan was about to take place that day. Scribes and commentators had so many things to say about the match. No matter what they say there are only three types of outcomes in any match. First- One of them wins and another loses. Second- Match is abandoned or cancelled. Third- A tie. In the third case by playing extra time a winner will be declared. Media people have to satisfy their viewers or readers. So they act like they know everything. Anyway they give what people take. That’s their business.
Mountania is a country surrounded by mountains in the north which gives it a natural protection from external enemies. But there are no mountains to protect it from internal enemies. Corruption is so rampant that politicians sell everything they can lay their hands on. They even sold soil to an enemy foreign land to allow them to make steal out of it. The steel is imported later. What a patriotism?
Rockystan is a rocky country. From the day of its independence, the things have been rocky there. The country has suffered under dictatorships and fanaticism so much that people have never seen happy days. Only the politicians and terrorists do not have rocky lives.
Both these countries enjoy and adore the game of three sticks. The sticks are fixed to the ground. This is the only game on earth in which all the players from both teams do not go to the ground together. Eleven players from one team go to the ground in the beginning who are called yielders. Some fortunate among them are called throwers who throw the balls towards the sticks. Two players from the opposition side go to the ground with planks called bats. One of them stands before the sticks with a bat in hand. Another stands the other side some yards away where other three sticks are fixed to the ground. The thrower comes running and throws the ball towards the sticks. The batter swings his bat. In the beginning you see two batters. Total number of batters is eleven who come one by one later when one of them gets out. When all batters finish, the batters become yielders and the yielders become batters. Then they come one by one.
The three sticks are collectively called wicket. Some pessimists joke that it’s ‘wicked’ game, looking at the first letters of the word ‘wicket’. But others say you should not consider the first letters but the last five. And they call it cricket.
A thrower throws six balls one by one. That does not mean he has six balls in hand. Same ball is collected back. As soon as he throws the sixth ball a person who looks ‘Enlightened’ named vampire shouts “over”. There is another vampire who stands few meters from him. Every over they change positions as if they are relieving each other. Their main duties are- to count the balls, to count so called overs, to lift a finger when the ball hits the wicket and tell the batter to leave the ground declaring him ’out’ even if the batter knows about it and to talk in the walkie talkie to tell a third vampire to take a decision when he is in doubt. Vampires are required to collect sweaters and caps of throwers when they throw the balls. Vampires are well paid.
There is some sort of madness here. The worst mad know all the rules of the game. They watch this game tirelessly. Some people who have money and know this game gamble for the outcome of the match. If one loses money, the other gains and the money changes hands. Even if both of them lose, there is a third person to gain money. Bigger people get more money. Money never gets rotten or soiled in these two neighbouring countries. If they keep the money in their land, it’s not safe and weather is not conducive. So they send it to Quiz bank. Money needs lower temperature.
Some people say that of late because of so called ‘match fixing’ scams which happened over the years, the game has lost its sheen. But number of people watching the game has not come down. Wherever you go they talk about the game. There are thousands of people to watch the game on the ground and millions to watch it on television. Is it fair to say because of match fixing scam people have lost interest?
“It is not fair to say that the game has lost spectators. Obviously the number is down. Otherwise more people would have watched.” - Some experts who haven’t stopped watching the game say. The experts always talk like that. Only lawyers and philosophers can understand the meaning of this statement.
But no matter what type of game this is, people gamble in millions. Wherever there is a gambler there should be a gang of gamblers. And wherever there is gang there must be a mafia. Ultimately someone has to control everything. These mafia syndicates always want to increase their profits. So they produce a result as they want. No matter who wins, they want to gain something.
The International Wicket Organization (IWO) which monitors the game says match fixing has stopped completely. They list the measures taken to curb fixing of games. Its officials look like black cats from the security and are always tight lipped and stone faced. So the people believe they are working hard and living by their promises.
The game has started. Prime ministers from both the countries have arrived. Film actors, leaders, very important persons, socialites, businessmen have also come and they are all watching the match from the VIP Longue. Analysts say Mountania has more chances of winning. So if Mountania wins whoever gambles for Mountania gets four times the money he has invested. If Rockystan wins, the gambler will get ten times of the money invested. These are called odds. That means Rockystan has less chances of winning, Mountania being the favourites.
This is the situation prevailing when the match starts. The players of Rockystan are not kids. They will also try to win the game. Winner will get fame, land, money, endorsements, girl friends and many facilities. Players from both the countries are aware of this fact.
The officers from IWO, some people from different agencies and police officers are moving like sleuths as if one of their relatives is in intensive care unit of a hospital. The bookies cannot talk to anybody. The players are prohibited from using mobiles. Even though the main gambling is limited to the outcome of the match, the gambling is done on different things from the beginning of the match till the end, depending on situations. Odds also change.
Mountania won the toss and played well as batters. Commentators insisted that Mountania has a better chance. Rockystan also started well when Mountania turned into yielders. They increased their chance of winning.
Money did not stop flowing in. The Chief gambler who has been hiding in Rockystan for years got tensed. He made many phone calls. He used a highest digit calculator to arrive at a figure. If Rockystan wins he will rejoice because they have given him a place with security to stay there. He was born in Mountania and made money there. Even now bigger chunk of his income comes from Mountania. He bombed one of biggest cities in Mountania killing several people to increase his business. But that is long time back and it is past now. He gets his bread and butter from Mountania though he stays at Rockystan. Even if Mountania wins he will be happy personally. It’s his native land. But Chief gambler is not an ordinary person. Only an ordinary person celebrates when his country wins by firing crackers and taking liquor. Everything is psychological here. The ordinary person gets only mental satisfaction.
Chief gambler suddenly realised that if Mountania wins and Rockystan loses, he will get 100 million Uncle Sam currency inflows and 40 million outflows where he will make a profit of 60 million. But if Mountania loses and Rockystan wins he will have an inflow of 40 million and outflow of 100 million where he will make a loss of 60 million. Mind you it is Uncle Sam currency, not Mountania or Rockystan currency. So Mountania need to win as he will make a profit. So Rockystan has to lose.
When Mountania overpowers the game, its prime minister claps. When Rockystan fares well its prime minister does the same. Both are sitting next to each other.
Chief gambler pressed the name of Rockystan Prime Minister’s secret number from his most expensive mobile phone. Phone conversation is not prohibited for them.
“Hello. What is up?” asked the PM.
“We are about to win” said the chief gambler.
The intelligence agencies from both the countries listen to their conversation. They know who are talking. They record everything. But the tapes will never be released for public or press. Situation is such. If anybody gets the tapes, it will be dismissed as a fake and doctored tape.
“What do you mean by We? You belong to both countries. It does not affect you whoever wins”
“You too are not affected. You also do not love your country. The person who loves the western countries and lives like them is only made Prime Minister here. And once you lose power, you run away to western countries only. I do not have time to waste. I want Rockystan to lose.”
“What if they win?”
“I want Rockystan to lose. Look at my stake. Why would I phone you otherwise?”
Situation was tensed. It’s common in politics, terrorism and gambling.
Rockystan PM called his Secretary and whispered something in his ears. The message reached Rockystan’s team manager. The team Manager sent a player to the ground with a bottle of water to quench the thirst of the ‘tired’ two batters. The bottle carrying player said something to the batters.
One of the two batters who had scored more than the other player tried hard to get out by allowing the ball to hit the wicket. But he did not want anybody to know about it.
He shouted within himself- “You the thrower of Mountania, please throw a straight ball so that it hits one of the three sticks. Do not throw wider balls like a mad man. I pretend that I am playing well by swinging the bat hard. Let the ball hit the stick… I want to go.”
He even tried his best to lift the ball in the air so that it is caught. But ball went rolling on the ground instead of going in the air. When one does not want to get out, he gets out somehow. But when one decides to get out it is very difficult. ‘Why the tall thrower is struggling to throw the ball straight into the wicket? Have they decided to lose? Are they not aware that we want to lose? Why all the opposite Mountania players look tired and exhausted?’- thought the batter.
The batter looked into the pavilion to see his PM. He looked as if he was rejoicing every ball. He looked like a hypocrite.
After minutes of struggle a ball touched the wicket. He went out from the ground slamming the bat to the ground as a mark of displeasure. He wanted to tell the whole world that he was unhappy to go though he was happy from within. It pays more to lose than to win.
There were six batters left to come to the ground. They knew what to do and they did. For few minutes they played well. Then they tried their best to get out. And they managed. All of them got out and were thrown out from the tournament.
Chief gambler laughed a lot. He had a beautiful moustache. His moustaches are famous all over the world. The policemen and politicians too in Mountania have beautiful moustaches. Moustache is a sign of prosperity in Mountania as well as in Rockystan.
Rockystan had to pack up and go back to the country. Once they reach their country they will have to face the angry crowd there and they have to show the people how unhappy they were to lose.
Later a meeting of players with the PM was arranged.
“I am very sad that we lost. We will try next time. I flew all over just to see you people win the match. But we lost” Said the PM.
He will never admit that he was the one who asked the players to lose.
PM’s Secretary said something to the PM in a lower voice without allowing anybody to listen.
Then PM talked again “You guys… go to some other country and enjoy for some days. Let the dust settle down. Time is the healer”
Dust will always settle down like it has happened in the past. People have a short memory.
The Rockystan captain after consuming prohibited liquor and getting drunk addressed his players and said “I am tired of this money. Few of us were even caught before. I wanted to win at least this time to please my country. Does the money give you as much joy as lifting a cup? And when I wanted desperately to win, that bastard himself intervened. But the only solace is- we will not be caught this time.”
(Richie John Pais is Mangalore based writer whose collection of short stories in English will be published at the end of the year by a major publisher. He has also recently completed his debut novel)
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