Their tales could make an Amitabh Bachchan blockbuster seem ordinary and yet the central characters in these stories are real people with real emotions, working hard in the face of adversities.
Meet the Chandigarh Lions’ brave-heart Sarabjeet Singh and Ahmedabad Rockets’ Bhima Rao, who have risen from the dust to carve out a niche for themselves.
“My father died when I was very young. If he were alive, he would have loved to see me play,” said Sarabjeet, the 22-year-old wicketkeeper.
“After his death, all the burden fell on my mother's shoulders. We are a family of seven, including four sisters and two brothers. It was rather difficult to feed the large family, so my mother started doing odd jobs. She would go to neighbourhood farms and cut crop for peanuts.
“My brother, a cricketer, left school when he was in class XI to augment the family income and my sister would stitch footballs for a sports goods company.”
“It was by chance that I picked up the bat. I had gone to a nearby school and was sitting in a corner watching the boys play. That's when their coach Dwinder Kalia came to me and asked, ‘can you field’? I said yes and that’s how I started. Soon, I got admission in that school and made it to the school team,” said Sarabjeet who represented Punjab in the Ranji Trophy one-dayers (2005-06).
But even though his impressive performance at the U-19 and U-22 level earned him a place in the Ranji squad, he was far from cementing his place in the side and that’s when ICL happened.
“I was playing in the Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai last year when Kiran More Sir and Bharat Reddy Sir approached me. I took the offer and here I am earning good money,” said the Jalandhar lad, who had another good news to tell. “I have become an uncle. My sister has given birth to baby boy on Wednesday,” he added.
Bhima Rao, the Ahmedabad Rockets’ all-rounder has a similar story to narrate. “My father used to work as a machine operator at HSCL, Bhilai. Things were going okay until the company started going into losses and they stopped paying salaries to employees. In a way my father became jobless.
“And the money that he had saved was consumed in the getting my two sisters married.”
Eventually, lady luck smiled on them. “I used to play in Rajesh (Chauhan) Sir’s Academy and he recommended my name to Kiran More Sir. He invited me for a trial in Chennai where Kapil Sir was present. They all liked my performance and that’s how I got through,” said Rao.
“Even though I played just two matches in the last season, I can say that things have changed a lot now. We are financially well off and our prayers have been answered.”
But Rao still feels sad for his brother, an auto-mechanic. “I wanted him to study further but he just doesn’t seem interested.”
The ICL may have changed his life, but like Sarabjeet, he has not forgotten his past. Praising his coaches Shantanu Ghosh and Prem Nath, he said, “I can never forget them; whatever I am today is because of their efforts.”