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Outback hero

In this small western Uttar Pradesh town, everything shines. Goods made of brass, ranging from household utensils to imposing statues, give this quaint town a unique identity. And people in the town believe Piyush Chawla is the real 'Paras' (mythical touchstone, which turns baser metals into gold). Sharad Deep reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2011 13:17 IST
Sharad Deep

In this small western Uttar Pradesh town, everything shines. Goods made of brass, ranging from household utensils to imposing statues, give this quaint town a unique identity. And people in the town believe Piyush Chawla is the real 'Paras' (mythical touchstone, which turns baser metals into gold).http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/05_02_11_pg(21b).jpghttp://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/05_02_11_pg21(a).jpg

Ask residents in Deen Dayal Nagar about Piyush and they might give you blank looks, but ask them for Paras --- his nickname --- and they instantly point to his MDA colony house where the India leg-spinner has lived for the last 18 years.

His father Pramod Kumar wanted Piyush to pursue cricket, just to get a sarkari naukari (government job) through sports quota, but never thought his son would one day be picked for the World Cup.

"I never compromised when it came to my son's cricket. I did the business of selling utensils for almost a decade. Even during hard times, I never let Piyush feel the pinch. And he always stood by me," says Pramod, a clerk in Moradabad's electricity department.

Turning point
Chawla hit the headlines in 2005, when he snapped up the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni in the 2005 Challenger Trophy.

But a crucial turn for this wrist spinner came much before, when his father held his emotions in check in a desperate bid to introduce his talented son to serious cricket training.

Pramod was trying his best to send his son to the 15-day Uttar Pradesh U-14 camp in Kanpur. But the tearful boy pleaded that he did not want to attend it as he had never been away from his parents.

But his father somehow took him to Kanpur, and one night while his son slept at his friend's house, he quietly slipped away after handing R100 to a servant, asking him to drop Piyush at the stadium the next morning.

"It was difficult for me. People scolded me when I returned to Moradabad. I was also worried for the next two days, until he called up his mother and said everything was fine with him."

Early steps
A visit to Deen Dayal Nagar reveals a bigger picture, of the struggle, sorrow and happiness of a middle-class family. The Chawlas moved there in 1992, apprehending trouble in the town's old Dewan Bazaar area in the wake of the Babri mosque demolition. They soon endeared themselves to their neighbours. "It was all because of Piyush as he played cricket with the street kids."

One day a neighbour, Tarsem Lal Arora, advised Piyush's father to allow him to play cricket seriously as he was ambidexterous. Chawla is a left-handed batsman. "I wasn't sure about his success, but when my friends and neighbours asked me to give him some serious cricket training, I requested a friend, LR Singh --- sports teacher at the Hindu College - to guide me. He took me to KK Gautam at the Sonakpura Stadium in 1997-98," recalls Pramod.

"I never used to let Piyush get complacent. I used to chase him with a stick, whenever he wanted to miss training, even if it was under the scorching sun. Sometimes I felt bad, but I knew hard work would pay dividends."