Putting an end to the reference there, the stranger now said, ‘Have you pondered over something? Perhaps not at all. You did care to think about the fact that on that very day you entered into the apartment complex without any permission, was actually an act of trespassing! But in the investigation of a case such apparently trivial things turn to be important’. The issue of trespass did not strike his mind at all. Does anyone keep on bothering about all such rules and regulations so minutely? But he felt uncomfortable as the investigating officer pointed it to him.

But he did not proceed any further. Said, ‘Ok, I won’t bother you any more today. We’d meet again. We’d need to talk again’ – It no more remained just a signal. It is nothing less than pointing a straight finger. His mind filled with anxiety after the stranger departed. Everything must now be shared with the coach, he thought now, and kick started his bike and headed straight to the coach’s residence.

The coach was worried learning of the development. Not because of anything else, because the coach is certain that his favourite player is not all associated with the murder. But the investigating agency has started churning the water blindly turning it dirty. Let them be. But his best player would be affected by their foolish action and that cannot be allowed. He decided to go ahead with a three-pronged strategy. First, his ace player would stay under his full care, at his residence, and during practice no one would be allowed to venture near him, let alone be the stranger from the investigating agency. Second, his ace player would be kept away from reading or watching any kind of news, printing or visual. How can one guess ahead where, when and with what motive one would plant some disturbing news in the media! So ‘Shut out your eyes and ears from news, understand youngman!’ Third, we have influential patrons of Sundance Club. They would be used to pull the right cord – so that our ace player is not disturbed or interrogated by police or people from the investigating agency – at least till the most important match is over. All these has been carried out to the word.

His mind returned to normal. It was excellent practice. His coach was satisfied at his speed, the game of switching control between the feet, the power in his shots and the skill of conjuring up surprises. He is free from all worries. He has planned how he would pierce through the impregnable wall of the opponent custodian. Perhaps there would be only a single chance in the entire match. But he would not let it slip away.

The game started on the scheduled day. Both the teams played marvelously. It’d be enough for Sunrise to contain the game to a draw only, but the Sundance Club need to ensure victory. The tactics of Sunrise Club is accordingly defensive, and that of Sundance attacking. He has been closely marked by three players. One has been constantly trying to tackle him to make him fall and get injured. He has been changing positions frequently and dodging him to escape from getting injured. He is stalking for the kill. The moment he gets the scope, he’d drive the ball home with his lightning shot. One of his fellow players is assigned the job to create the opportunity. Both are making attempts sporadically but the defense is too active. The opportunity is yet to come. The first half ended in a draw. They have again devised new plans during recess. The coach said, the defense of the opponent is not impregnable. One of their back has slightly defective reflex. His anticipation is just a little bit slow. So the next attack must be along his position, but the entire move would be from the other side. He would be kept busy and the ball would suddenly be passed over to the scorer, who would keep himself available and free to receive the ball. And the moment he receives the ball, he would score with a bull’s eye shot duping the custodian.

The concept of the experienced coach was correct. The opportunity for the goal was created as he directed. At the moment the ball touched his feet there had only been one player of the rival team to face him. He beat him on the run and created the scope. Only the custodian to beat now. Of course not an ordinary one. Known as safe hands. But, he too is the top scorer of the season. He has got confidence, he drafted plan. He readied himself for the shot. Split second. Suddenly his eyes moved to the gallery behind the goalkeeper. There resting his face on a palm, the stranger from the investigating agency that interrogated him was peering at him. Was there a little flutter in his heart? He does not know. Always shooting from his right foot, this time he was to take the ball to his left and shoot. But he forgot. The anticipation of the rival custodian is extraordinary. But there was no need for anticipation. It was indeed a powerful shot. But the ball rather than following a trajectory to enter into the goal sailed over the goalpost and dropped into the gallery. Everyone had been waiting with bated breath only for this moment. The supporters of their club were shut out at his failure. Rival supporters were dancing in Mexican waves.  [Continued]

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