“Unlikely Hero” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Lakshya Gupta, Maharaja Agarsen Public School, India.
Life can be full of surprises. You never know what moment can change the direction of your life forever. I always had difficulty in learning and had no interest or concentration for it. Being short in height with poor hand and eye coordination meant I was not too good in sports either. Basically, I had reached eighth standard of school without any mention-worthy academic or sports achievement.
It was my father’s constant bothering that pushed me to play basketball and since my school team had not even twelve players to complete the team, by default, I became a part of the team. As expected, I was as bad in throwing the ball as in catching it. As a result, I sit out all the matches of zonal competitions of my team.
If you don’t believe in fate, now you will. It was the last match of the zonal competition for our team and somehow we were in the competition for the fourth slot in the league, which meant we could qualify for the semi-finals of the zonal competition. It would have also created history for the school as we were never good at basketball.
As usual, I was the twelfth player of the team and was not expected to play for even a single minute. But destiny had other plans. Three of my teammates couldn’t come on that day because of one illness or another. During the game, one more got injured. In the third quarter, our best player, our captain got too exhausted and fell down with cramps. With about last five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, a player of the opposing team collided with one of ours and got hurt so badly that both had to visit the medical room.
Now, neither the coach nor I had any option but to field me on the court. With great reluctance and zero interest, I went inside. At that time we were up by six points. In the next four minutes, I messed up the three balls that were thrown at me, and our team virtually played with five players instead of six.
My costly errors meant that the opposition was now up with one point with one minute to go. As no balls were passed to me, I was moving on the court unnoticed with no opposition player marking me. One of my teammates threw the ball at me and with great difficulty, after fumbling thrice, I somehow managed to grab it.
As I was clumsily moving towards the opposition basket, I was fouled and the referee awarded two free throws to me. All my teammates and the students of my school started shaking their heads as they knew that I would never be able to throw the ball into the hoop. I shared their confidence in me.
Anyways, I threw the ball up in the air, and somehow by divine intervention, it went into the hoop. The game was now tied and strangely, everyone was now chanting my name. I felt like a hero. This was a very strange and alien feeling to me as since my first day in the school, I had always been called for the wrong reasons. This gave me immense energy and motivation to throw the next ball with all the concentration and courage I could muster. I chanted the names of all the Gods possible, threw the ball, and like magic it went inside the hoop once again.
The next ten minutes, I will not be able to forget in this life and maybe even the next. I was on the shoulders of my coach who was running all around the court with all my teammates running behind him and all the stadium chanting my name as if I had won the world cup for India.
Obviously, we lost the semi-finals and obviously, after all eleven players got fit, I never got the chance to become a part of any other match. But no one can take my moment of glory and fame from me which I will cherish forever.
I am in ninth standard now and everyone knows me as the guy who took our school to the zonal semi-final of basketball for the first time. All of you just wait for your moment and you never know when you could be an unlikely hero just like me.