The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Even as cliché as it sounds, one cannot fathom the wonders that a mother’s unconditional love, grit and faith in her child can achieve.
From great kings who led platoons to victory to iconic personalities that went down in history, many of these achievers have attributed their successes to unwavering support from their mothers.
With Mother’s day just around the corner, we delve into the stories of some of India’s finest cricketing legends and the Supermoms behind them.
1. Leela Raj
With several world records under her belt, Mithali Raj, the captain of the Indian women’s cricket team, is a household name and an icon for millions of young Indian girls.
But who are the icons that inspire this legend?
Her parents, especially her mother, Leela Raj.
Mithali’s parents made many sacrifices to encourage her to become a cricketer. When she was first named among probable players for the World Cup, her father, Dorai Raj passed up a promotion to avoid relocating to another city. Her mother too quit her career as a manager at an optical products chain to take care of the household.
Speaking about her supermom in an interview with The Cricket Monthly, Mithali had said, “She has sacrificed a lot of her time. She has worked very hard to see to it that I had food on time. I’m that kind of a child who needs her mother around even today, so she took a back seat and decided to become a housewife.”
When people mocked the family for letting Mithali play cricket, Leela stood her ground and put Mithali’s happiness and aspirations first.
“How can you allow your daughter to play cricket? What if she gets an injury on her face, who will marry her? That time, anyone who heard about a girl who was playing cricket, raised questions. I never bothered about these comments. I supported her decision. For me, my daughter was achieving greater heights every game and I was proud of her. After every injury, I was worried about how soon can she make a comeback on the field. Today, my own sisters refer to me as Mithali’s mother. There can’t be a better feeling for a mother,” Leela said.
2. Saroj Kohli
The top right-handed batsman and captain of the India national team is renowned across the world. But not many know that the passion for the game in the fiery cricketer stems from the dream his late father, lawyer Prem Kohli, passed down to him.
He was only eight, when despite financial troubles at home, his parents enrolled him at a cricket academy.
He often saw how his father, Prem and his mother, Saroj, sacrificed their comforts for him and his siblings. Prem’s death on 18 December 2006 affected Virat deeply. But Saroj’s grit and strength kept the family together despite the void Prem’s death created.
According to The Cricket Monthly, after his father’s death, Virat called his mentor in tears and decided to play the next day. He scored a 90 in that match and left for his father’s funeral straight after.
Speaking to the publication, Saroj had said, “Virat changed a bit after that day. Overnight, he became a much more matured person. He took every match seriously. He hated being on the bench. It’s as if his life hinged totally on cricket after that day. Now, he looked like he was chasing his father’s dream which was his own too.”
On Mother’s day, the cricketer wrote a heartwarming message to his mother calling her a “very strong woman”.
All her sacrifices, when she stood by his side as he received top honours like the Khel Ratna and even the fourth highest civilian honour, Padma Shri. The cricketer’s first ever tattoos were his parents names ‘Prem’ and ‘Saroj’.
When asked, he had said, “Purely because of the connect that I’ve felt with them. It is something which is unexplainable. Hence, I wanted to make it a part of me until I am alive.”
3. Rajni Tendulkar
For the rest of the world, he may be the God of cricket or the Master Blaster, but for Rajni Tendulkar, Sachin will always be the naughty child who plucked mangoes and played cricket all day at Sahitya Sahawas Co-operative Housing Society in Bandra (East).
She never watched a single match live during his entire career until he coaxed her to come to the stadium to watch his 200th test match.
In an interview with Meenatai Naik, Rajni Tendulkar recalls, “I had never been to any match. I used to be very tense. We used to watch it on television. This time Sachin said, ‘Aai, you must come this time. I have asked them to have this match in Mumbai for you. What will they feel if you don’t come?’ This time, I had a physical problem. I cannot climb steps. Then Sachin got a ramp made especially for me. But because of the huge crowd which was expected, Sachin also got a wheelchair for me.’
His love for his mother has only increased over the years. Last year on Mother’s Day, the Master Blaster shared a photograph of his beloved Aai on Instagram, looking at a sketch of him, with the caption, “She is the one who can take the place of all others but her place cannot be taken by any other! Happy Mother’s day Aai! #MothersDay.”
4. Devaki Dhoni
The world is aware of how the former skipper of the Indian cricket team dotes on his daughter, Ziva. Much of the love and effort can be attributed to his own upbringing.
People got a glimpse of his love for his mother when he asked the entire team to don a different look during one of the ODI series against New Zealand in Visakhapatnam in 2016.
Instead of their own names, their jerseys bore the names of their mothers!
Speaking to NDTV, Dhoni who wore his mother’s name, Devaki, said, “It’s an initiative to appreciate the contribution of the mothers. If you ask me, it was always about how emotionally connected I was to my mom. It’s not like the dads are not there, they’re there, but just that we often don’t appreciate (the) mother’s role in a way we should. Often, we talk about soldiers and get patriotic before 26th January or 15th August. What’s important is (to) get up everyday and thank them for what they are doing. We need to appreciate our mothers’ role the same way.”
5. Satinder Kaur
She became a nationwide sensation after her scintillating 171 not out off 115 balls that helped India reach the 2017 Women’s World Cup final and beat Australia by 36 runs in the semi-final.
But when Harmanpreet was growing up in Moga, Punjab, finances at home were tight. An even bigger challenge was the lack of girls who played cricket.
But not once did her father, Harmandar Singh, or her mother, Satinder Kaur, let it become an impediment on Harmanpreet’s path to following her cricketing dream.
“When she was born, we had brought a suit with cricket words on it. Some years later, she started playing the game with boy trainees at the college ground. Initially, it was tough for us as the bats were costly and we could not afford them. But later, she would play for Punjab at a young age and also made her debut for India while in high school,” her parents told The Indian Express.
In a state with one of India’s worst gender ratios and statistics of female foeticides, when Harmanpreet became a showstopper, her mother Satinder Kaur reminded the nation why it ought to empower its girl children.
“People should give their daughters a chance to excel. I just want to say to other women that the way my daughter has made us proud, they should also give their daughter(s) a chance to live their dream and shouldn’t kill them in the womb,” Harmanpreet Kaur’s mother, Satinder Kaur, told ANI.
On mother’s day, the cricketer shared a lovely picture with her mother, adding, “All that I am, or hope to be is all because of my angel mother. She taught me how to love, learn, become fearless and most importantly, the lesson to become a good human. A mother’s love is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. My dearest mother, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. I remember your prayers, they have always followed me. I am a proud daughter.”
Hats off to these Super Moms. May their tribe grow!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)