Cricket was once the game of the elite in India. Learnt from the former colonial masters, Indians had looked up to the aristocrats and nobility once to do well in the game for them. But as time went by, the game became more democratized and the nation’s teeming middle-class became the torch-bearer.
From Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and numerous others, cricket in India has over the decades become more symbolic about the empowerment of the middle-class and the trend has only grown stronger. Nowadays, we hear about sons of not-so-well-to-do families making a name for themselves on the 22 yards, ensuring that cricket is more and more democratized as a national passion.
Now, the latest to join the list is the son of a BEST bus conductor who has been selected for India Under-19 squad for the Youth Asia Cup to be held in Sri Lanka next month. The captain of the squad is Dhruv Chand Jurel, the son of a Kargil War veteran who chose to serve his country by playing cricket.
Atharva Ankolekar, the 18-year-old son of Vaidehi Ankolekar, has made his mother and the family proud by getting picked for the big occasion. What has made his achievement even more special is that he made his mother’s sacrifices pay off. Vaidehi had single-handedly raised Atharva after his father Vinod passed away nine years ago. Atharva was just nine then.
Atharva missing his father right now
A left-arm spinner, Atharva has so far played in only three games for India ‘B’ U19 against India ‘A’ U19 and Afghan U19 teams in March this year. A second-year student at Mumbai’s Rizvi College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Atharva missed his father the most after getting the U19 call. “I am missing my father the most right now. When I was a baby, he would place a cricket bat in the cot next to me. As I grew, whenever I performed well, he would give me gifts such as bats, gloves and helmets to play the sport. I miss all that. Now, I will work hard and play for Team India,” he was quoted as saying by DNA.
Vaidehi, too, is no less ecstatic after the news of Atharva getting selected spread on Wednesday. She received no less than 40,000 congratulatory messages after her son’s special feat. “I have received messages from other BEST staffers and relatives. I am really grateful to all of them; it’s a proud moment for me,” she said.
“My husband Vinod was a conductor in BEST and the only earning member in the family. His death left me helpless and I began giving tuition at my home with my friend’s help. Later, I was luckily given my husband’s job. I am grateful to BEST, because of it, I could fulfill my son’s dream,” she added.
One of Atharva’s special moments came in 2010 when he took the wicket of none other than the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar in a practice game in Mumbai. The latter even gifted him a pair of autographed gloves.
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