Meet The Unhailed Hero Of Indian Sport: Former Captain Of Blind Cricket Team And Padma Awardee
February 10th, 2017
If you ask any person which Indian Cricket Captains have won two cricket world cups, they will pause at the “plural” in your question; because the only name to cross our mind is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But many of us are not aware of the fact that India has won the T-20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind in 2012 and the Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014 and 2016 under the captaincy of Shekar Naik, the Padma Shri recipient of 2017.
Blind from birth, he survived a fatal accident and has one of the most inspiring stories you will ever hear- his journey from a small village in Karnataka where he grew up combating his loss of vision to being the honoured as the Captain of Blind Indian Cricket Team.
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Shekar was born in Shimoga district in Karnataka in 1986. Although he belonged to an economically less privileged family, he displayed a keen interest in sports from a very tender age. Unfortunately, he didn’t get much support for his choice from his community. His maternal family had a history of blindness, and thus, he was visually impaired since birth. In 1994, he fell into a canal, and the next day he was taken to an eye check up camp where he came to know he can get back his vision since his retina was in good condition. He was advised to be taken to Bangalore where he got operated. He got back 60% of his vision in his right eye, but nothing could be done for his left eye.
Three months after his operation, his father expired. This was one of the biggest shocks he received. In 1996, he was enrolled at “Shri Sharadha Devi” blind school where he started playing cricket. In 1997, he entered Grade 1 at the age of 11. That was the time when he started playing cricket seriously. He was a wicketkeeper when he represented his school at the state level.
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Shekar owes his success to his mother who encouraged him to play cricket. He remembers her saying, “You told me you want to play cricket, you have to achieve something in this field as well”. But he received another shock when his mother passed away when he was 12. He says, life was, is and shall forever remain challenging for him and he has accepted this fact and moved on. He had no other option than to win. He was equally blessed to have the Physical trainer of his school by his side.
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His debut was a tournament in Mandya, Karnataka, in 2000 where he scored 136 runs in 46 balls. That match boosted his confidence. Next, he got selected for the Karnataka team South Zone as the Opening Batsman. His first stadium debut was a match in Belgaum where he played against Kerala. He scored 249 in the game.
But life was hard for him as he lost both of his parents at such a tender age. He was pained to see all his teammates returning to their family during vacations, and he had nowhere to go. For a couple of years, his uncle took him to his house for 15 days during holidays. When he was promoted to Grade 5, he worked in the fields for two months. What he earned from working was sufficient to afford his food and clothing.
In 2001, he participated in an under-18 cricket tournament in Hyderabad. He won the Man of the Series award which was a big turning point, as it opened the door for him to get selected for World Cup 2002.
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In the World Cup, he received the Man of the Match Award twice while playing against Sri Lanka and Australia. In 2004, he went to Pakistan for a match. Although he scored 198 in one of the matches against Pakistan, unfortunately, India lost the series. That was his first international score.
He has a series of accolades in his kitty, like the “Best Batsman”, “Man of the Series” and three “Man of the Match” awards in 2006 and “Man of the Match” in England, 2007. In 2010, he was chosen as the Captain of the Blind Indian Cricket Team. In 2012, he led his team to victory in the first T20 World Cup for the Blind held in India. His team defeated Pakistan in the Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014.
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When asked as to why he chose cricket, Shekar says, “I started playing cricket to be happy. I did not play cricket to earn money. That was never my aim. Only after winning the World Cup, we have started getting some financial support, that too not much”.
He is thankful to Smarathanam trust for lending their support to him and his team. “My dream of becoming captain of Indian blind cricket team was accomplished in 2010. And I was the captain when we won two World Cups. I have represented India in 82 matches. I am thankful to Samarthanam Trust, Bengaluru and CABI for giving this platform.” On getting recognised by the BCCI, he says, “We had a meeting with Mr Manohar recently, and we are very positive about getting recognition sooner or later. These things are required because we need this moral support”.
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He owes his success to his mother who passed away in 1998. She used to tell him that due to his blindness, nobody is going to take care of him. He has to grow and struggle alone. Shekar took it up as a challenge and remembers those words whenever he steps on the ground. Whatever popularity he has received due to his performances, he claims, would never have been possible without his mother.
The Logical Indian congratulated him on receiving the Padma Shri. On being asked how he feels, he said, “As an Indian, I am proud to have brought glory to India. I am thankful to the Government for honouring me with the highest award.” He admits that he didn’t expect this. “Cricket has changed my life”. He is grateful to the Cricket Association for the Blind in India. It is a big victory not only for him but also for the blind community who will feel encouraged to go out and achieve more.
As for the parting words, he said, “Whatever opportunity you get, you have to utilise it fully. Lots of people don’t get the opportunity in spite of being talented. So, you have to grab the opportunity as and when it comes.”
The Logical Indian congratulates Shekar Naik for Padma Shri award and wishes him the best for future.