Vijay Lokapally

CHANDIGARH: In Bijni, a sleepy village in Bongaigaon, Assam, cricket is played with a tennis ball. On Wednesday night, the youth of the village converged in a small house on the outskirts. It was the only place where they could watch one of their own mates on television, embracing fame with a sterling performance with the ball.

The happenings of the Tau Devil Lal Stadium in faraway Panchkula were watched with bated breath in this little household. Sujay Tarafdar triggered wild celebrations with every strike and at the end of it a few broken chairs stood testimony to the joy that erupted from his childhood friends.

Tarafdar, a seamer with promise, had arrived. A chirpy kid, who opted for Indian Cricket League because his stints with Indian cricket broke his heart, Tarafdar had come a long way from playing cricket in the fields of Bijni. His three for 20 steered Kolkata Tigers into the semifinals of the ICL, a splendid revival for a team that started the competition with a defeat to Chennai Superstars. The two teams meet again on Friday.

Youngest among three children, having lost his father at three, Tarafdar symbolises the story of a young sportsman from remote corners, striving for recognition and opportunity despite possessing talent. His love for cricket grew from reading exploits of his heroes in newspapers and sometimes watching them on television.

When Tarafdar saw Glenn McGrath in action, he made up his mind. He had to play cricket. His mother backed his desire to make it big and success at the first district trials paved the way. Hard work was complemented by good results and Tarafdar now shifted his base to Guwahati. He was being talked of as the best cricket talent in Assam.

Soft countenance

In 2003, he made it to the State under-17 team and then the under-19 squad too. His progress saw him pick eight wickets in the inter-State senior one-day league. “I was always confident,” says the mild-mannered Tarafdar. His aggression, pumping fist in the air after claiming a wicket, does not really match his soft countenance at all.

In four under-19 matches last season, Tarafdar had 30 wickets to his credit. He was promptly picked to play the Ranji Trophy. Thirteen wickets in four matches were not bad. In all the representative matches that he played for Assam in junior and senior grades, Tarafdar aggregated 70 wickets.

His confidence soared and he dreamt of a future with the big stars. But he was to soon discover that talent alone does not work. His name did not figure even in the 25 probables for the under-19 World Cup to be held in Malaysia early next year. “I was very disappointed. I was expecting my name in the probables’ list because I had done well,” Tarafdar’s says with moist eyes.

Offer from ICL

And then the offer from ICL changed his life. “I grabbed it for the simple reason that I knew I would get to play on merit. And also the money was good. I can now ask my mother to stop working,” Tarafdar says as a matter-of-fact.

The 18-year-old knows he may never get to play official cricket again. “But I am playing cricket that my friends can watch on television. I can get some recognition.” His two elder sisters called up on Thursday from Pathshala and Kokrajhar after watching their little brother demolish Hyderabad Heroes.

Lance Klusener carried Tarafdar on his shoulders on Wednesday night. His friends back home in Bijni are waiting to do just that. Only, Tarafdar would need to pay for some broken chairs.

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