Mumbai is just discovering that it has a new cricketing hero — Iqbal Abdulla, the left-arm spinner who claimed 10 wickets in six matches in the U-19 World Cup in Malaysia.
And Iqbal, a grocer's son from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, is just realising what this victory and cash awards of Rs 20 lakh mean. “I have been travelling by train in the second class,” said the 18-year-old, seated in the small one-room kitchen he shares with his five others. “I will now go by first class.”
In a predominantly Muslim locality in Kurla (west), a stone’s throw from the station, Iqbal has been living with his coach’s family for four years.
It’s a classic Mumbai story. As a teen, Iqbal left his native Azamgarh to pursue his ambition of playing cricket. He joined Anjuman-e-Islam school and played for it. “He did well and was selected to represent Mumbai in Ranji Trophy,” said his coach Naushad. His performance got him a berth in the national under-19 squad.
Now, his priorities include doing well for the west zone, sending his parents for Haj and bringing his younger brother to Mumbai. “I'd like to buy a house in Kurla too,” he revealed.
His father Niyaz Ahmed is in the city for a short visit — to celebrate his son's success. “I have no plans to close my shop; I will go back soon,” said Ahmed. “I hope Iqbal earns a good name for Azamgarh. It has been in the news for all the wrong reasons [it's Abu Salem's hometown].”