Oh, what a Run Out – Priya Cooray

Oh, what a Run Out – Priya Cooray

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Taking after his father Rana who had captained the national team, Sajja too had become a prodigious batter who could play on the front and the back foot equally well against any bowling attack. Also, he could freely score either side of the wicket with an orthodox cover drive and a controlled pull shot from his armory of strokes. Captaining his club ‘Sirikotha Rebels’ to win the premier league title had propelled him to the national pool again where he had scored heavily, and the selectors thought he was ready to become big and make the country proud.

Coach was happy with the bowling talent but needed to sort out the batting. The opening pair up to now was the brothers Nandaraja the Captain and Percyraja the Vice Captain and they have been opening for their club ‘Carlton’ too. Being highly skilled in stealing runs they always protected each other to maintain a NIL run out rate between them. They also started to attract large crowds after they had won a difficult series against the ‘Northern Warriors’. Of course, that series was won thanks to ‘Fonny’ who is a no-nonsense all-rounder, but the brothers took all the credit. Nanda was also voted by a record 6.9 million fans to win the coveted title ‘Observer most popular cricketer of the year’ and was awarded the national captaincy. Rumor has that even umpires did not want to lift their finger against Raja brothers after that.

However, they have been failing continuously in recent tours and the fans who felt being let down and not so fans who wanted players like Sajja at the helm, started protesting with a slogan ‘Go home Rajas’. Coach then knew their days were numbered, but he could not replace the captain now itself, so he proposed for Sajja to replace Percy. Comfortingly selectors agreed to that plan. Coach and Nanda who was left with no choice met Percy to inform their decision. He was distraught and reluctantly agreed to step down after a heated exchange of words.

Percy had a large group of die-hard fans who by then had dwindled to a quarter as he was failing. The fans who made a buck, by bowling to him at club practices, who went shopping for him, sold tickets at matches for a higher price, involved in betting and who even went to the extent of spreading rumors against other players during selections, remained with him. Hearing of him being dropped, this group became disgruntled and assaulted the protesting fans, which precipitated into a series of arson attacks targeting houses belonging to some of the national players, carried out by parties who wanted to exploit the situation for their own benefit.

Meanwhile hearing of Percy being dropped, Sajja tweeted, ‘‘Yes, I can’’. Later captain had called him ‘‘would you be my vice-captain’’. As opposed to his batting skills Sajja was also known as a proud and an egoistic player who always thought that he is a better captain than the Rajas or anyone else. He responded audaciously ‘Nanda, everyone knows it was you who failed, why don’t you go home as well and let me lead as I am excellent’. Captain was furious but requested Sajja to reconsider, ‘this is about the country and not about the captaincy’.

Anticipating such a response from Sajja, coach and Nanda had deliberated bringing in Vicky a veteran who had been in and out of the team five times through his club ‘Green Elephants’, still he was respected by foreign teams as a worthy vice-captain, but not by local fans though. When Vicky was invited, he gave a big YES with his deceptive grin and said he will play only this series for the country’s sake. But in the process, he had run out Sajja in a tit for tat when Sajja had run him out by leaving Vicky’s club after last selections. Also, little did they know that Vicky had foreseen an opportunity to become the captain if Nanda is also sent home soon, smart move.

Came the match day, and Sajja after consulting few players, was regretting his earlier decision not to accept the vice captaincy, and wanted to speak to Nanda about reversing it, but by that time it was too late as the captain and the coach had warmly welcomed Vicky with his 6th Test Cap also as the Vice Captain. Percy too was happy and had sent Vicky a congratulatory note, probably expecting a push one day for his son Naraja to lead the team.

After welcoming Vicky, coach walked to Sajja and quipped,

‘Know an opportunity and know when to grab it, it may not be to serve you but a greater cause’.


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