Cricket is where his heart is

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His is a story of triumph of the spirit. Meet captain-cum-coach Diwakar Vasu

You talk of passion. Then you talk about real passion. You talk of commitment. Then you talk about real commitment.He closed his right eye, stared at the empty ceiling. He saw a black spot. It grew bigger, and bigger and bigger. Until a point when he could see nothing but the black spot. He had lost central vision in his left eye.Amid darkness, he glimpsed hope. Diwakar Vasu did not walk away."It was diagnosed as Central Retinopathy," remembers Vasu. The year was 1995 and at 28, he had several miles left in his cricketing journey. Eleven years hence, he still plays the game, has taken significant strides as a coach, continues to inspire.Each time he walks out, he puts his one properly functioning eye at risk. And all this not for hefty sums of money - he had lost all realistic hopes of representing the country, nor is he keen on turning out for the State and blocking the path of a youngster. He takes enormous pride in being part of Chennai's SPIC-TNCA first division league, skippering Jolly Rovers and now its sister club, Alwarpet, with enormous success. He constantly receives calls from his parents, settled in Dallas, USA, pleading with him to join him there. He held a green card too. "They have given up now," says Vasu with a wry smile. "This is where my life is. This is where cricket is."We get back to real passion.His eye condition left him devastated initially. "I lost my sense of distances. Then I began playing golf. It got better." Gradually, Vasu fought back. The tale of Tiger Pataudi is well documented. Vasu's isn't. It does not make his story any lesser.Vasu's eventful career has several stages. He began as a batsman, developed into a left-arm paceman of rather sharp pace and a bagful of variations. Then, after a serious bike accident in 1993, that left three bones fractured in his left ankle, switched to left-arm spin. Shining through is the triumph of the spirit.It's astonishing that in a scenario where quality all-rounders are rare, he was not picked for a single match against a visiting side, and was never considered for any Board side in longer duration matches. Given his credentials, it is shocking.His impressive first class record - 3001 runs in 76 games at 35.72 and 240 wickets at 25.11 - reflects his calibre. Vasu was no bits and pieces man. He was, indeed, a full-fledged all-rounder.Vasu bears no grudges, although he permits himself to say, "My State did not back me enough, did not push my case." It's sad that cricketers suffer for reasons other than their ability.The disappointments only spurred him on. In a 20-year love affair with the Sanmar group, Vasu has notched up more than 10,000 runs, scalped more than 1,000 batsmen. "You see Mr. N. Sankar (chairman, Sanmar group) and Mr. Vijay Sankar (deputy chairman) have been so supportive. They are totally `hands on,'" he says. Despite being in his late 30s, Vasu remains fighting fit and thanks trainer P. Padmanabhan for his inputs. And, yes, he can still swing matches.These days, Vasu is more visible with his niggardly left-arm spin, coated with subtle variations. "Since I began as a paceman, I have strong shoulders and wrists and it helps," he says.This season he has, as captain-cum-coach, led Alwarpet to the top of the table, with 38 points, after seven rounds in the first division league. "Captaincy is a lot about motivating the boys, instilling in them self-belief. You've got to be positive, even over-confident," he points out. Not surprisingly, youngsters like off-spinning all-rounder R. Ashwin and paceman A. Avinash have blossomed under his leadership.In his natural progression as a coach, Vasu has excelled in BCCI's level III examinations, is in the coaching panel of Tamil Nadu and the Zonal Cricket Academies, apart from being the fast bowling coach in the NCA.His cricketing vision is as clear as a cloudless blue sky. Oh, yes, we get back to real commitment.S. DINAKAR




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