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Commuters of cricket

You can’t keep a small-town cricketer from going places. Beating the odds gives them a fire in the belly and the stomach for a good fight.

books Updated: Mar 11, 2011 22:31 IST
Aasheesh Sharma

Going Places: India’s Small Town Cricket Heroes
KR Guruprasad
Penguin India
Rs199 pp 166

You can’t keep a small-town cricketer from going places. Beating the odds gives them a fire in the belly and the stomach for a good fight. Growing up in a family of wood-cutters helped Azamgarh’s Kamran Khan develop the shoulders to bowl at 140 kmph and impress Shane Warne.

Ashok Dinda, son of a farmer in East Midnapore, borrowed R30 every day from his brothers to reach his coaching centre in Kolkata every morning.

Iqbal Abdullah, also from Azamgarh, slept in godowns before making it big in the Indian Premier League in Mumbai. And Harbhajan Singh, son of a ball-bearings trader in Jalandhar, didn’t balk from borrowing a ‘ladies’ cycle and turning up at the nets to pursue his passion for the gentleman’s game.

The loneliness of a long distance cricketer’s commute did not bother left arm spinner Sunil Joshi, who travelled 120 kilometres everyday from Gadag to Hubli in Karnataka and back to attend school after practice.

Once he’s boarded the gravy train, the small town cricketer’s transformation is striking. The pride that Abdullah takes in buying “my own” house in Mumbai is palpable. From riding his BSA bicycle in Bangalore, cantankerous quickie Sreesanth today owns a fleet of cars that includes a Beemer of the car kind. And Munaf Patel, from Ikhar in Gujarat, who once hid in a cotton field to avoid playing a match, doesn’t think twice before giving R70,000 to a needy person.

Six of the 11 players representing India in the World Cup come from small towns. The book manages to capture their combativeness and street cred.