By Bhaskar Ganekar
In India, cricket now-a-days is not just limited to metros and towns. In this century, we have seen cricketers from small villages are emerging and making their way into the state levels and at the national level. MS Dhoni is perhaps the biggest example of this new trend. If you have talent, skills and ready to work hard, no one can stop you. Like we have seen with Hima Das, an Indian athlete who bagged three Asian Games Medal at the age of just 18.
But what if despite being talented you are being ignored, just because of petty regional politics?
Well, this is the story of Shubham Patil, an ambidextrous bowler from the remote Chandagad area of Maharashtra. The 23-year old has the ability of bowling finger spin with both hands. In addition to that, he can bowl right-arm medium pace. Interestingly, his rare skills have already impressed a legend like Sir Vivian Richards, who has shared a video of Shubham’s bowling in social media. Charith Asalanka – the former Sri Lanka Under-19 captain is another fan of the youngster.
However, unfortunately, when former legends and international cricketers are talking about Shubham, his own district body is yet to take a firm step to groom this talent.
“I just want to play cricket, that is my only aim,” says Shubham during a chat. “I feel, just because I belong from the border area [Maharashtra and Karnataka], I haven’t got enough attention from the authorities. This is very unfortunate.”
During the Kolhapur District Association trials, amid thousands of aspiring cricketers, Shubham did not get enough opportunity to showcase his rare art. Later, while studying in a college in Karnataka, he tried to feature in Karnataka Premier League. However, being a Maharashtra resident, he was denied a chance over there as well.
Ambidextrous bowling is an extraordinary challenge. Like switch-hitting, it involves rewriting the entire body. It is a rare talent and at international level cricket, it has been taken up by five bowlers across the world – Vidarbha’s Akshay Karnewar, Sri Lanka’s Kamindu Mendis, Bangladesh’s Shaila Sharmin, Pakistan’s Yasir Jain and Australia’s Jemma Barsby in women’s game. Shubham has such ability, but without proper guidance soon he will start losing his mojo.
Hailing from a middle-class family, his love towards the game started at the age of five. His parents were unhappy for his decision to pursue his dream, but he had a different mindset. During his high-school, his schedule was 8 to 11 cricket, 11 – 5 school, 5-7 cricket. After his 10th, he started playing cricket professionally. He was enrolled at Ajit Wadekar Cricket Academy at Shahupuri, Kolhapur where he first realized that he can bowl with both the hands.
During the board exams when he was in 12th, he once went for trails with only Rs. 400 which he had saved. When his father informed him to play cricket and work with his relative so that it could be helpful for family, Shubham was ready to take the deal without asking any question. But his relative provided him the job of labor and he missed trails. This was a very crucial period for the emerging cricketer.
After his 12th, he admitted in RN Shetty Polytechnic at in Belgaum, Karnataka to pursue his engineering. He was a part of the college team.
During that time, his schedule used to start as early as at 5 am. After running and exercise, the youngster used to travel 25 km via bus to reach Belgaum for practice from 7 to 9:30 am. Later in the day, after finishing his college hours, Shubham used to attend another round of practice sessions before taking a bus back to home in the evening, which meant at 50-60 KM of travelling was his daily routine.
With no pocket-money to buy food, his friends were to cooperative where they shared their lunch with Shubham. These days, his contemporaries like Nathu Singh – Rajasthan quick bowler, Shubham Nayak – Odissa and India U19 player and Rishabh Pant have already made their marks at the respective levels. Whereas Shubham is still struggling to make his mark even at the club level just because he belongs from a geographically isolated area.
Such a pity!
(Bhaskar Ganekar is a Mumbai based cricket journalist. He can be contacted via Facebook.)