Cricketing lore is rife with rags-to-riches tales. Javed Khan could be the latest Cinderella story. A week and a half back the strapping pacer was a net bowler who had never played any age-group cricket.
His bowling in the nets caught the eye of Sachin Tendulkar, and the 20-year-old now has an IPL contract with Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians to show for it.
Khan's breakthrough moment arrived during a nets session at the Kotla before the final Test between India vs Australia. Khan's pace and bounce had Suresh Raina hopping and even got him on the body with a vicious bouncer.
Sachin Tendulkar was getting throw-downs in the adjacent net and took note of the rookie pacer. According to Khan, Tendulkar went up to statemate Ajinkya Rahane and lauded his 'speed'.
A few days later, he was in Mumbai for trials. His performance there impressed Mumbai Indians skipper Ricky Ponting and coach John Wright, who pegged his speed to be around 140-kph.
He will get Rs.10 lakh for the season, the fixed wage for domestic IPL players without any first-class experience.
“I bowled with the leather (cricket) ball for the first time when I was about 18, around the time I'd come to Delhi to play cricket. Before that I used to play only with a tennis ball at my home," said Javed, who hails from Gajraula, a dusty UP village near Delhi.
At the heart of his unexpected success story is his father, a retired army hawaldar who is now a physical training teacher.
He always put emphasis on fitness in Khan's childhood — though not only for sporting reasons but also to make him fit for the rigours of life in the army. “He made me do a lot of exe-rcises and running,” he said recently, showing his sinews.
Once in Delhi, shuttling between his chaacha (paternal uncle) and mausi's (maternal aunt) place, Javed played a game in Shastri Park where he was encouraged by his impressed teammates to take cricket seriously.
Soon the Delhi selectors got a whiff of him and the chairman of selectors, Chetan Chauhan gave him a flat to stay in Saket, where he now trains at his academy.
The news of his pace spread when he injured a member of the Delhi U-25 team with a bouncer that hit him on the head. An injury, however, ruled Javed out of the U-25 season.
But then luck smiles in different ways.