The Indian Premier League (IPL) has thrown up some remarkable stories of cricketers aspiring to reach the top. Not bound by the limitations of geography and even poverty, these cricketers through sheer hard work, perseverance, and skill have managed to climb the mountain of opportunity and make their presence felt on television sets across India.
Professional sport is full of stories about athletes overcoming incredible obstacles to make it to the top, and platforms like the IPL have become avenues for young and ambitious cricketers from small towns and villages to climb the economic ladder. Having said that, these heart-warming stories never fail to amaze the common spectator or fan.
Here are five cricketers in the IPL who have come from humble beginnings
The story of Rinku Singh, an all-rounder from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, who was acquired by the Kolkata Knight Riders for a stunning Rs 80 lakh, is remarkable. The big-hitting batsman began playing the sport in 2009 and swiftly rose through the ranks of domestic cricket with his state team.
Kings XI Punjab acquired his services last year, but Rinku failed to feature in any match. Not perturbed by this setback, he practised rigorously and scored a stunning 91 of 31 during a Mumbai Indians trial session, before being snapped up by KKR.
However, his rise to the top was anything but comfortable. From a tin-roofed two-room home in an LPG distribution company’s storage compound which housed eight family members, Rinku Singh began his professional cricketing journey after completing his Class X exams.
He realised that his heart was not in academics anymore and went with cricket. With the family in debt, a father selling LPG cylinders and one brother working as an autorickshaw driver, Rinku had to contribute his share to the family income with earnings from playing matches.
He even gave the motorbike he had won after a man of the series award at the end of a tournament in Delhi, to his father so that he could deliver LPG cylinders. Despite all the hard work and sacrifice, Rinku’s cricket career never quite took. He even contemplated working as a domestic worker, sweeping and mopping floors, before gaining the courage to follow his dreams.
Mohammed Siraj, the son of an autorickshaw driver, has endured a stunning rise to the top backed by lofty dreams and unrelenting dedication. This fast bowler from Hyderabad had taught himself how to bowl.
His breakthrough year was 2015 when he scalped 41 wickets in nine matches in a Ranji Trophy season. Two years later, however, his life changed with the 2017 IPL auction. From a base price of Rs 20 lakh for the speedster, various franchises made a bid for his services before the Royal Challengers Bangalore shelled out a whopping Rs 2.6 crore. He even made his debut for Team India last year in the T20 series against New Zealand.
For Thangarasu Natarajan, the son of a daily wage worker and roadside seller of edibles, life has been roller coaster ride. The speedster from Chinnappampatti, an obscure village 36 km off Salem, overcame all obstacles to make it big time. Acquired by the Kings XI Punjab for Rs 3 crore last year, Natarajan now supports his parents and four younger siblings.
Before cricket, however, his family was struggling to make ends meet, and barely had any money to support his dreams of making it to the professional game.
Thanks to the intervention of fellow village folks who saw his promise, and sheer determination, he made his mark in the local Chennai club cricket circuit. It was his stunning performance during the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), which caught the attention of selectors. Today, he plays for the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise.
Read our profile of T Natarajan here.
From waiting tables in Goa to opening the bowling for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kulwant Khejroliya has travelled a long way. From a small village in Rajasthan called Jhunjunu, the 26-year-old pace bowler, who only began playing competitive red ball cricket in 2016, has made his IPL dreams come true.
“I come from a small place and have played cricket since my childhood. I dreamt of playing for the Army, but I’d already crossed the age limit. I’d bunk classes to play the game and even was scolded by my parents. Despite my difficult situation, whenever I’d think of cricketer Nathu Singh, I’d get motivated and think, ‘If he can get out of his village and succeed, then I can too,’” he tells Asian Age.
Unable to secure a government job and the family undergoing a tough financial situation, Kulwant left for Goa to work as a waiter in a hotel run by his friend’s father.
It was a phone call from a friend, which inspired Kulwant to give cricket a real shot. “I was working at a restaurant in Goa, but I thought if it is in my kismet that I do this, I could even do it five years later. I wanted to badly play cricket,” he tells ESPN. “I told my parents I’m moving to Ahmedabad to join the roadways department. I somehow managed to hide it from them for six months. Only my brother knew the truth.” Instead, Kulwant had moved to Delhi to pursue his dreams.
From sharing a flat with six others in Ashok Nagar and earning Rs 500 per match playing for local club side, he now represents Delhi in domestic cricket and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The IPL franchise paid Rs 85 lakh for his services.
For this former daily wage labourer and private security guard from Jammu and Kashmir, the decision of the Kings XI Punjab franchise to draft him into the side this year changed his life. “I have studied up to Class 12th. Due to a financial crunch, I could not continue my studies. I worked as a labourer, and till date, I am engaged in furniture work. To make ends meet, I worked as security guard for Tata Motors Pvt Ltd for Rs 2500/- per month,” he told a local news agency.
The big-hitting burly batsman from the Shiganpora Nowgam Sonawari area of South Kashmir’s Bandipora district was snapped up by the Kings XI for Rs 20 lakh.
Read more about him here.