Sufiyan Shaikh will play cricket for India, but he just can't talk to his father about it.
Shaikh's journey from the labyrinthine lanes of Crawford Market to wicketkeeper of the India under-19 squad that will tour Australia next month speaks of rare grit and a whole lot of pain.
When he returned home from sub-junior matches he did not bask in parental pride; instead he felt the heat of his father's wrath. "My father did not understand anything about the game and would beat me up with a belt every time I returned from matches," said the 18-year-old.
But surely, donning the Indian blue would have made a difference? "Even now, he does not understand why I play. I hardly talk to him," Shaikh shrugged.
Hindustan Times spoke to the father, Mehboob 'Guddu Bhai' Shaikh, who now seems to have reconciled to his son's ways. "I wish him well and he should play with his heart. Maa-baap se badkar Hindustan ke liye khelna hain (playing for India is more important than the wishes of parents)." Asked why he beat his son, the older Shaikh said: "He'd go to play cricket when it was time for namaaz."
In a nation where cricket is a religion, Shaikh's story reads like a 'doosra'. The boy did not even have his own bat till about three years ago when a spot in the West Zone U-17 squad got him a kit contract.
His father, a dealer in dates and perfumes, had little time for his talent. "My father would come to school (Anjuman-I-Islam High School) and scold me for playing." Shaikh's only encouragement came from coach Naushad Khan.
In December 2004, Shaikh scored 281, sharing 531 with Shishir Tiwari (318) for the fifth wicket - the highest for this wicket in cricket - at the Harris Shield u-16 tournament. The boy, who gave up his Class 12 exams this year, has been instrumental in Mumbai's triumph in the u-19 Cooch Behar Trophy this season.
"He is a typical Mumbai cricketer with a khaddoos attitude," said his Mumbai Colts coach Satish Samant. "He is very confident about his game and has a never-say-die attitude."
Figures. Few, after all, have the gumption to take on their own father for the sake of a game.