Match-fixing in Cricket has existed as long as the game itself. A triad of shepherds had to step in and protect the honour and name of the game. However with that backdrop, romance is one of the themes in this novel that is set between India and England. Cricket Maiden opens in Bangalore, India during the colonial era of England ruling India. It is a story of one great Sport and Romance. A young English cricketer is caught up in a match-fixing chaos, which with the help of the ‘guardians’ of cricket, the Shepherd’s Triad, he successfully squashes the plot to lose a match against the amateur’s team. He tragically loses his fiancée at the hands of the aggrieved team mates and the bookmaker.
Fast forward 200 years later, a similar scene in England and the game is threatened by the same scandal of match-fixing. Murder, attempted murders, romance and a search that takes the heroes and heroine from Europe to India under the mysterious watch of the ‘cricket maiden’ and the Shepherd’s Triad. The police, together with one of the richest families in England, work tirelessly to solve the murder of the Cricket coach. The search for clues and answers send them across continents. A female fashion journalist who happened to be at the match, standing in for a colleague, where the murder took place, accidentally becomes a target for the killer. Landon, an aggrieved ex-policeman, is called in to assist with the case and becomes enamoured to the female journo. He steps in to coach the amateurs as well as put a new team together after the death of the coach. The amateur team’s best player is set off against the Professional team’s best player, with a Bollywood actress at the centre of their contention. She has been given to marry the professional arrogant player but her heart belongs with the underdog and she is torn on what to do as the wedding date draws closer.
Through this novel, Algenes, weaves a tale of romance, heroism and exposes the dark side of the game of cricket. Cricket has become the richest game and India has taken over as the custodian of this game from England. Algenes’ love for cricket comes through every page as he takes you through wicket losses and wins. The hero, Landon, finds love again after a tragic loss and walks off into the sunset with his love. The underdog cricketer marries the rich Bollywood actress. All is well that ends well. Cricket Maiden is a heart warming read.
Chapter 19 : Adventure in the Indian Forest
The four entered the Indian forest at midnight. Masaba was wearing a baseball cap, with a LED light, to guide her across the forest. She broke a low lying tree branch, and used it to clear the dense vegetation. Amelia saw bats through the full moon above her. They heard a distant feline growl. “Must be an angry tiger” said Masaba, matter-of-factly. Landon felt Amelia holding onto him, he held on to her hand.
Davidson felt his dinner jacket, formal pants and black shoes soaked through. They passed by sleeping birds, croaking frogs and their eggs, wild orchids, bugs and insects of every kind, shallow streams, a few snakes, and then a long-tailed chameleon. Landon played and hissed at the upset chameleon before placing him back on the branch. After about half an hour, deep into the forest, they heard the loud trumpeting sound of an elephant.
“We may have stumbled across a herd”, said Masaba. She was mistaken. A plethora of large artificial lights suddenly switched on, and they were surrounded by over 200 people. They were largely on foot, on horseback or with guide dogs. They saw the elephant in front of them. The rider of the elephant was none other than – Orson. And standing besides the elephant, dressed in a tracksuit, was Adam.
Orson overconfidently addressed Landon, “Well well, well, Landon my boy. You forgot to say goodnight and sleep tight to me after the party!” And with it, he burst into a loud roll of self applauding laughter, and announced, “We will be following you to the ends of the earth. I want that magic bat. You will find it for me.”
Orson was dressed in a jungle safari suit, with a rifle strung across his torso, and wearing felt cowboy hat. He had a bottle of wine in one hand and one of his airhostesses in another. “Let the games begin!” he screamed, and shot several bullets into the night time forest skies.
Adam, the match-fixer, quipped, “Hey Landon, we can’t be kept out of the game can we? We are dying to know whether you will find that magic bat. We can make fresh calculations in the bookie and betting world if you do. Like – Landon 100 runs not out when he bats with it? Good luck.”
The disruption of circadian rhythms with Orson’s rifle shots and massive searchlights disturbed the habitat of the jungle. The confusion of the lights made the birds think it was day, and they began to take to take flight, and the bats began to hide for cover.
Masaba addressed Orson and his group, “Sorry to disappoint you gentlemen, but the bat is not in India”.
Those words made Orson freeze. The cigar dropped from his mouth onto his trousers. “What? I organized this extensive expedition to retrieve the bat. I even sabotaged Hedwig’s search party consisting of Mork and Klumsy, by reversing the coordinates of their GPS from north and south, and have got them lost somewhere in Kanyakumari. And you tell me that the bat is not here.”
He fired two more shots in the air, in frustration.
“We will still follow you to see what you will find”, replied Orson.
The jungle trek went on for two hours into the night.
Masaba spoke to Landon, “The legend goes that the match-fixers were jailed in India after being found guilty of first degree murder in 1810. They were released, and they wasted away into alcoholism, solitude and worthlessness, eventually dying of no honour.”
“Vijay left a message, engraved on a rock. He wanted his ashes to be kept there when he died. His dutiful wife, Manjula, delivered his ashes to that rock that we are heading to now. It is the key to understanding where the bat lies”.
“What of the message”, asked Landon.
“Well, it was written in Latin. It is hidden, and was only to be revealed in cricket’s greatest hour of need. It gives a vital hint of where the magic bat lies.”
They reached a collection of large boulders at the edge of the forest. They were followed by the two hundred men and Orson mounted atop an elephant. The full consortium and Orson’s army did not notice another unidentified group of two individuals following their larger group behind them.
“Not far now”, said Masaba. He pointed to a large banyan tree, with roots that reached from the branches to the ground. They reached to the tree and stood next to the two boulders placed side-by-side of each other. He pulled what appeared to be one of the branches taking root into the soil. The boulders gave way, and opened into a hearth into to the underground. It looked like the entrance to a secret cave.
“Here it is. Let’s enter,” ordered Masaba.
Orson was scared to enter the dark cave. “Err … you go Landon. You have to come out at some point eventually. We’ll be waiting here – to take from you what you bring out for us – Ha Ha Ha .”
Landon, Masaba, Amelia and Bob entered the cave. The boulders shut behind them.
Landon smelt the damp air of the soil moistened by the monsoon rains. Byragi had a flashlight, and they noticed stone engraved stairs leading to the inner recesses of this cave. Its walls were full of cobwebs and dead insects.
“This is the burial site of the ashes of Vijay, of the Shepard’s triad”, said Masaba. .
In the light, they approached a piece of shining sandstone. A marble jar held what appeared to be the Ashes of Vijay. On the jar, were inscribed the words,
“Cura reperitur in morbum”
Landon and Bob took pictures of this with their I-Phones. Amelia, who studied basic Latin in school, was able to decipher the words to mean, ‘The cure will be found within the disease’ in English. These words were written by Vijay, well versed in English and Latin, the friend of Hughie Dawson, over 120 years ago, at the time of his death.
As soon as they finished clicking the pictures, they heard a scream. Masaba was kicked from behind, and she fell forwards, knocking the light onto the ground. Her cap fell off her head, and the LED light shining forwards cast a light upon the direction of the attacker, and an even more massive shadow backwards of the attacker, who was already 8 feet tall. It looked like a scene from Beowulf.