Sunday, January 15, 2006

Breaking it down

Slowly, slowly, a silent violence was about to occur. Nothing could have stopped it because the moment had already passed. That the ball had been struck over the ropes was already known. But here it was, on a new camera designed to reveal each thousandth of a second, and it took eight or ten seconds for the batsman to swing his bat in an arc of 180 degrees. The ball arrived as the bat raced down slowly to meet it. Its white thread appeared and then disappeared, over and over, as if unsure of what face to present as the bat drew closer. It passed a foot planted firmly, by a bent knee, and at that instant, it collided with the bat. The bat wobbled, pausing momentarily before continuing its arc. Shahid Afridi's head was angled, leaning towards the bowler but looking away to the left, and at that instant, when his forearms bulged and veins shifted over expanding muscle as the ball's course was altered, an art form was made of Afridi's madness. The explosion was imagined, the violence was quiet. The ball had changed its mind and hurried upwards, its seam spinning manically as it disappeared from view. As it rose, Afridi looked up steadily, and the bat swung past his head even as he began to raise himself. The result was known. It was a six. It had to be. But never before had the act of hitting a six before it was a six brought such delight.