Often heart-warming, most times exhilarating stories of young men from different parts of India, who’ve caught the speed bug. It’s the washed out veterans of India and former first class cricket who are at the base of the pyramid helping chisel their lean mean speed dreams along the way.
This is the country’s next crop of fast bowlers beyond the top 5 of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Ishant Sharma, and Umesh Yadav. And their tales will give you goosebumps, just like their bowling rattles batsmen.
It’s been quite a journey for India’s latest pace sensation, and one that had his father Abdul Mallik, a fruit and vegetables seller, worried for a while. Occasionally, when Umran would step out to play tennis-ball cricket at night, the father would secretly follow. You know how this age is. There are a lot of youngsters who are spoiling their lives by taking drugs and such. I was worried. But he (Umran) convinced us that the only ‘nasha’ (high) he has is playing cricket, so the family need not to be worried. Sometimes, I used to hide and see whether he was actually playing or not,” Abdul, now an elated father, tells The Indian Express.
J&K gave Umran a chance last season when he played a game in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournaments. Soon, his friend Abdul Samad, who plays for Sunrisers, recommended his name as a net bowler. And this season, when pacer T Natarajan was ruled out due to Covid, Umran got a chance as the replacement. “I was told that he bowled brilliantly in one of the net sessions to Warner, and didn’t give him a chance. His raw pace impressed everyone and that is why he was roped in as a replacement for Natarajan,” Pathan says.
Prasidh Krishna was unusually tall for his age, and when he was in the 8th standard at Carmel school in Karnataka, when he started bowling really quick. “His coach Srinivas Murthy said that my son needs to play age-group cricket. That’s when he decided to become a cricketer,” father Murali Krishna, who didn’t pursue cricket beyond college, told The Indian Express.
“The difference Glenn McGrath made was to bring in that aura of calmness and also he was very specific about the line and length with respect to different pitches. He always spoke of being consistent. The first thing I picked from him was to remain in the present under all circumstances as it is the most important aspect for a bowler when you are playing a game,” KKR’s official website quoted Prasidh Krishna as saying.
When Avesh Khan saw joy on the face of his parents after his India selection, he teared up. Through the tears of joy they shed, he fleetingly glimpsed his journey from a raw teenager from a cricketing outpost whose only ambition was to bowl as fast as he could to bowling alongside two of the elite fast bowlers in the world in the IPL and now on the brink of playing for his country. He reminisced the sacrifices his father made— some time ago, the local authorities ran down his father’s roadside paan shop and rendered him jobless — and the pillar of strength his mother had been through his coming-of-age years. The blessing of his uncles and aunts; the prayers of his grandmother; the support of his friends and the mentoring of his coaches, especially Amay Khurasiya, who spotted him, and fine-tuned him in his academy.
And yes, he can’t let go off his second-hand bicycle. “We couldn’t afford to buy a new one, so my parents brought me an old one. It was my best friend. I used to take that to the school, from there to cricket practice, then back home. Then to that street or this street to buy something. I barely ride it these days, but didn’t dispose of it. I had given it to my nephew and he’s riding it all the time like I had been once upon a time.”
His son Kuldeep’s breakthrough game meant Ram Pal had an unusually hectic start to the week. “I have not got time to eat today. There are a lot of customers today,” Ram Pal said between giving haircuts. “I have been doing this for the past 30 years. I am happy for my son. He has made me proud. I had never supported his passion for the game. I have scolded and even beaten him for playing cricket when he was in school. But he never gave up on his dreams,” Ram Pal, who makes Rs 8,000 a month, and cycles six kilometres from Hariharpur village to Rewa to reach the barber shop, said.
Against Lucknow, Kuldeep conceded just a single in the first ball of the final over. He held his nerve to bowl three dot balls to Marcus Stoinis, the big-hitting Australian. Stoinis hit a four and a six off the last two balls but it was in vain as Rajasthan Royals won by three runs. Kuldeep owes his career to Aril Anthony, a former Madhya Pradesh Under-19 fast bowler, Ram Pal said. The meager family income meant Kuldeep, one of five children, could not afford a basic cricket kit. “All credit goes to coach Anthony. He took care of everything, from Kuldeep’s training gear, spikes and diet,” Ram Pal said.
Yash’s father, Chandarpal, was a fast bowler and played in the Vizzy Trophy in the late 80s and early 90s. “I never got any support from my father. In fact, my father always used to say there is no future in cricket, I am wasting my time, I should prepare for government examinations,” recalls Dayal, who works in the AG office.
“Whenever a young kid comes for a trial, and if he is a left-arm bowler, I give them special treatment. Left-arm pacers are so rare, and here I saw a 12-year-old kid moving the ball both ways. Everything was so natural about him, the wrist position, seam position, bowling action. Honestly, I didn’t have to do any work on him; he was well-coached before he came to our academy,” says Amit Pal, Yash’s childhood coach.
Like most young men in the village, Chinnappampatti, their dreams rarely strayed beyond its physical boundaries — Natarajan knew he would end up being a porter or a weaver like his father, and Periyaswamy would help his father in his tea shack. That’s when life took a rather sudden turn, much like in the Rajinikanth blockbusters that were once a big draw in the village’s two ramshackle cinema halls.
The storyline went thus: A failed district cricket player spots Natarajan, launches him in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) league, from where he rises so dramatically that he’s picked in the state team, then the Tamil Nadu Premier League and finally the IPL, when Kings XI Punjab shelled out Rs 3 crore in 2017 to acquire him. He returns home a millionaire, turns his mud house into a bungalow and starts a cricket academy for the local children. All this in less than five years.
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