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A young man runs his own race, both on and off the playing field

Illustration: Satheesh P. Vellinazhi

Illustration: Satheesh P. Vellinazhi  

No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid

Writing is a difficult art, but not as difficult as cricket, or so I guess. Words don’t really come easily. But I think this part would be pretty easy for me to jot down.

I vaguely remember when I held a cricket bat for the first time. It all started pretty early in life. It was the dream of my father, which eventually became mine.

From a very humble background where even owning a bat was a big deal, I had the whole cricket kit. Not to forget that my father made a concrete pitch at home. What a man!

I left home at the age of 11 and went to a whole new world. A very shy kid from Bihar, who used to speak only Bhojpuri, was suddenly dealing with the north Indian Hindi accent along with Punjabi, Hariyanawi and of course English, in Chandigarh. (Today I can speak all of them).

I was lucky I went to a place where missing a practice session made you feel bad and guilty about yourself. I don’t remember missing one for the first couple of years. Eat, sleep, attend school and play cricket: this was how the routine was, and I was sincerely living that life, along with hundreds of other children like me who were there.

Nothing much happened for the first four years. I did not play a single official match. But one thing I did for sure: I practised as hard as anyone else did, and I backed myself. I somehow knew I had it in me.

When I got a chance in the district tournament in the fifth year, I started with a bang by hitting my first-ever century, in the Mohali stadium. Everyone was amazed; and so was I. I realised how cool it was to see yourself in the newspapers. The people who saw me play started telling me that with hard work I would be able to make a future out of it. With the grace of God I was selected for the Rajasthan under-15 team the following year. And this was when things started to change. I took great pride in it. I knew hard work was the only option I had, and apparently I worked really hard.

Three things happen when you start playing professional sport. You travel, you meet new people, and you start making money. I started buying things with my own money, and most of them were clothes and books. Actually, nothing fascinates me more than these items. I got a contract with a sports equipment company, so I did not have to buy sports gear — which was a relief.

I didn’t have much time for studies; so cricket became the teacher for life and it taught me many things I could not have possibly learned in the classroom. From a three-star hotel to a dharamsala, I slept everywhere. One day I was flying from Delhi to Bangalore and the next day, travelling in the general compartment of some train. I got the privilege of sitting beside, and talking to, Sachin Tendulkar and many other international cricketers. I saw how down-to-earth they all were and learnt a great deal just by observing them.

Cricket is such a great leveller that one day you are the cock of the walk and the next day a feather-duster.

All that was happening was changing me as a person. Nothing comes easy and everything is ephemeral, I learnt pretty early in my life.

I got selected for the Rajasthan Ranji trophy team at the age of 19. It was a dream-come-true for me and my family. I was among the top 30 under-19 cricketers in the country. Just as any other budding cricketer, I was dreaming to play for India. But life is not like flowing water that takes the shortest possible route to reach its destination. In the following years, I was not at the place where I was supposed to be.

I saw that people who were way more talented than me had left cricket and started doing other things, while less-talented ones played at higher levels than I did. I am happy with myself and I always ran my own race.

One thing is for sure. Whatever I did and achieved I did it on my own. With unfathomable politics happening around, things often go beyond my control. Consequently, today I might not be at the place where I was meant to be but it does not mean I won’t be there tomorrow. I have learned that experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted, and I know for sure the best is yet to come!

Cricket has taught me many things in life, and the most important thing I have learnt is that no matter where are you from, your dreams Are valid. This game owes me nothing, I owe everything to this game.

awijit08@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 10:39:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-young-man-runs-his-own-race-both-on-and-off-the-playing-field/article8210207.ece

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