Even as Gautam Gambhir received his Arjuna Award at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Saturday, a few kilometres away, three brothers, Saqib, Sufiyan and Ali Alam, were praying for Gambhir's continued success.
Had it had not been for Gambhir's timely intervention, the trio, especially, Saqib would have had its dreams of pursuing cricket dashed. The India opener spotted Saqib, who bowls bouncers with an unusual action, in a local league match in Delhi and immediately took the youngster under his wings. "He advises us on various things from technique to mental aspects. He tells us how to mould our game according to the situation," Saqib explained. "Today, we are very happy for him and are praying specially for him."
Gambhir told HT that the decision to help the youngsters was an easy one. "When I first saw him, I thought he had a lot of potential. He is technically very sound and I thought nothing should come in his way if he is good."
But Saqib, 16, had to overcome several obstacles to even be where he is.
Hailing from a family of 14 siblings in Purniya near Agartala, Tripura, Saqib shared his story at his small house in Wazirabad where he lives with his uncle and brothers Sufiyan (14) and Ali (11).
Saqib was brought to Delhi by his uncle after he sensed the youngster's "keen interest in cricket" and the lack of a bright future in the village.
Saqib worked in a carpet factory and spent his free time playing cricket on the narrow streets near his house. He then graduated to playing club cricket, and after leading various teams to victory in six tournaments, earned the sobriquet Chota jadoo. He then urged Sufiyan and Ali to join him in Delhi saying, "at least they wouldn't starve".
"We did not even have money for basic things. How could we ask chacha ji for money to buy bat or ball?" asked Saqib. "Par kehte hain allah madad ke liye bande bhejta hai…Gautam bhaiya hamare liye kuch aise hi hain,” he said.