The story of a blind cricketer

The story of a blind cricketer
Close to three decades back, it was a sultry summer
afternoon, when Mr. Naik was pacing in front of the operation theater of the
dingy nursing home in his home town in remote Karnataka. Naik was quite excited
as well as worried that day, and why should he be not? His wife was just taken
inside the operation theater for labour and he was eagerly awaiting the glad
news to be broken, the birth of his child.
Naik’s eyes lit in gleam as the nurse opened the door
and called out his name, “Mr. Naik, congratulations, your wife has given birth
to a baby boy”. Naik ran over to her, shook her hands, and in the same breath
ran down the steps, crossed the road and went straight to the little temple
that stood bang across the nursing home.
Thanking the goddess deity for the wonderful gift, he
ran across to the only sweet shop in the vicinity, glanced over for the most
expensive sweet on the counter, ordered for it and ran back to the nursing
home.
When Naik was back with the box of sweets in his hand,
he could see the doctor out there, surrounded by his family members. But he was
surprised that instead of the happiness on their faces, all he could see were
gloomy faces. As he tried to approach them, all of them, as if in synchronized
action, lowered their faces, as if they didn’t want to face Naik.
Petrified and worried, grasping a breath, he slowly
walked towards the doctor. The doctor put her hand over Naik’s shoulders, and
waved at him to follow her. With no words spoken, Naik slowly trudged behind
the doctor and followed her to her room. Once inside, the doctor took her seat
and requested Naik to be seated. By this time, Naik was trembling with fear and
he just stood there next to the desk. She slowly opened her mouth to tell him
the inevitable truth. The child was born blind.
Naik felt as if the ground has slipped from underneath
his feet. The sweet box just dropped from his hand and the sweets lay scattered
all around. He felt as if his world of joy which lasted just a few minutes has
all come crashing down.
The child was brought home in the midst of gloom and
despair. The regular rituals were carried out just as a routine and the little
child was named Shekar. Shekar was a Sanskrit name which meant crest or peak in
English, and the birth of this blind child was the peak of despair for the
unlucky parents.
Shekar was enrolled into a blind school by his parents
and it was here that he was introduced to the world of cricket. At this school,
he realized that even he could play this sport meant for the kings. Shekar
immediately took a liking for the game, and dreamed of playing the game for his
country. His passion for the game remained undeterred though he was constantly
ridiculed and teased by others.
Shekar’s mother supported him in his quest and by the
time he was all of 12 years of age, he had mastered the game. Amidst ridicule
by all others, he promised his mother that he would conquer the cricketing
field one day. Mrs. Naik never lived long to see her son fulfill his dreams as
she died soon thereafter.
The death of his mother was a big blow for Shekar as
she was his only source of inspiration. However, her death did not deter him
from pursuing his dreams and he took up to the field with more vigor than before,
with the only reason that he needed to erase the depression of his beloved
mother’s death from his mind. He started practicing and honing his skills
remembering his mother’s words of encouragement.
Shekar was around 14 years of age when he was selected
to play for his school team. His perseverance and devotion bore fruit in his
very first match for his school team, when he scored a quick-fire century. His
score of 136 in just 46 balls was the talk of the tournament and Shekar became
the hero of all and sundry. His heroics in that tournament got him noticed by
the selection committee of the state and very soon he was selected to represent
the Blind Cricket team of his home state, Karnataka.
Shekar always sought the blessings of his late mother
before going out to bat at the crease and he believed that his mother’s spirit
was with him always. It was that final match of the tournament and his state
Karnataka was pitted against a strong opponent in the form of Kerala. All odds
were against his team and any turn of fortunes heavily rested on the tiny
shoulders of this teenager.
Shekar tried to conjure up the image of his mother,
whom he had never seen as he walked out to bat. He could feel his mother’s
loving hands touching his cheek to bless him as he walked out of the dressing
room into the cold breeze at the stadium.
His team was precariously placed and was almost facing
defeat when Shekar teamed up with his partner to tide their team to victory. In
this process, Shekar made a score of 249, the first ever double century in one
day blind cricket.
Shekar never looked back after that as he quietly kept
amassing runs in every match that he played. His man of the series award in an
under-18 tournament the very next year, earned him a place in the Indian Team.
Earning an Indian cap was a dream fulfilled for Shekar.
The day, the news was announced to him, Shekar cried a lot. He wished that his
mother was there to witness his achievements. Till his mother was alive, Shekar
used to see the world through her eyes, and from the time she was gone, there
was a complete void in his life. Shekar wished that his mother could see the
ball, see the spectators cheering at him, as he would go out to bat, some
spectacle, he has never seen and would never ever see.
Whether it was his mother’s blessing or Shekar’s
dedication or both combined, Shekar climbed the ladder of success in his
international career too. In the first ever international tour by the Indian
Blind cricket team, when they visited Pakistan, Shekar amassed his highest
international score of 198 not out.
Shekar brought many more laurels to his country and
state and within a span of two years, Shekar had already bagged 7 Man of the
Match awards including two in England. When Shekar got the opportunity to play
for his country for the first ever World Cup, the country had high hopes on
him, but the team could only reach the semi finals. However, with two Man of
the Match awards in the tournament, Shekar was immediately noticed as the
budding cricketer.
Shekar’s heroics on the cricketing field continued in
the next World Cup in 2006 too, but the loss in final to Pakistan devastated
him. Shekar was never content with personal laurels and always had the team’s
interests before him and though he was adjudged the man of the tournament and
the best batsman in the tournament, the final loss seemed to be a big blow to
his career.
Shekar continued to impress the selectors with his
performance and he was finally made the captain of the Indian Blind Cricket
Team in 2010. Becoming the captain of the Indian team was a long journey for
this lad from Karnataka. The highest point of his career came in 2012 when Shekar
led his team to victory in the first ever T-20 Blind World Cup. Shekar himself had
a big contribution to play in the final match against England, when he smashed
a massive score of 134 runs in just 58 balls.
A few days back, Shekar was sitting at home when the
news of his being appointed as captain of the national team for the forthcoming
World Cup in South Africa was broke to him. This news now hardly brought a
smile on Shekar’s face. Playing cricket for his country has just become another
routine for Shekar who has become almost ignorant to the apathy meted out to
the differently abled sportsmen like him.
As the news of his appointment as captain spread,
people started coming to congratulate him but Shekar has no great visions of
the future anymore. In fact, the past haunts him like nightmare more than the
thrill of playing for his country. As one of his close friends came over to
congratulate him, Shekar held his hand and mentioned that he plans to lay off
his boots after the tournament. What would he plan to do after that, he was
asked, to which he coyly smiled and replied that perhaps he would take up
coaching to hone the skills of budding talents and providing them his
assistance in any little way that he can.
As the din of excitement subsided and the visitors
left, Shekar was lying on his bed reminiscing the past. He recollected how once
he had heard that a big multinational company flush with funds had promised the
blind cricket team a tour of South Africa in order to encourage and inspire
them and give them a feel of international matches. Shekar remembered how he
and his team members were elated at the news. But the wait for that tour has
been eternal, as the financially rich multinational later backed out on its
promise citing financial constraints. So much for playing selflessly for this
country, Shekar thought to himself.
Shekar has played enough for the country and has
brought more laurels to the nation than anyone could even imagine. But he has
now learnt to come to terms with reality. A harsh reality which still bites him
is that the country’s main cricketing Board has still not provided recognition
to the Cricketing Board for the Blind. The apex body, being the richest
cricketing board in the world, seems so ironical to Shekar.
Shekar would perhaps play for the last time ever for
the country in the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. No sooner he would
commence his last long walk back to the pavilion for the last time; his name
will soon be written off in oblivion.
No one would remember how many runs he scored, how
many awards and recognition he won for the country. No one would even remember
that Shekar played the sport of the kings without the aura of a king. Shekar
had never seen the lighting in a match, so day-night or a day match never
mattered to him. Shekar had never ever asked for the sight screens to be
shifted.
Shekar had never seen a cricket ball, he had just
heard the sweet sound of the stroke when the ball hit his bat and was
dispatched to the boundaries. Shekar has neither seen the enthusiastic crowd
thronging the stadium to see him play nor has even heard them cheer him up,
because he has always played to almost empty stands. What Shekar has ever seen
and felt was the exciting cheers of his own team mates, and nothing mattered to
him more than that.
The narration has been slightly dramatized for this blog but true story of the grit and determination of Sekhar Naik remains untouched. 

I’m
voting for Shekar Naik’s
#WillOfSteel and
blogging on
 BlogAdda to
help him get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW.

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