HYDERABAD: “Aashayein…. Aashayein… Aashyein.. Ab mushkil nahi kuch bhi….” Remember the movie Iqbal, where a deaf and mute boy from a remote village aspires to become a cricketer? Directed by our very own Hyderabadi, Nagesh Kukunoor, we were all moved to tears and left enthused at the same time. Would you believe there is another Iqbal, and that too from our city? Yes! Gunja Madhu, 24 -year-old cricketer, who plays for the Blind Cricket team at both National and State level is an inspiration, who is now hoping against the hope to ends meet.
Hailing from Mallapuram village of Nalgonda district, Madhu moved to Hyderabad in 2002, because of an accident that changed his life forever. “When I was in sixth standard, I had come to Hyderabad and joined the Government Boys High School for the Blind Darushifa. I developed interest in cricket by observing others’ play. I took up blind cricket in seventh standard. I didn’t know there was something called blind cricket until I joined this school. I knew I wouldn’t be prosperous playing the usual cricket. I thought blind cricket would take me places,” Madhu informs.
Madhu was not born blind; it was a brutal accident that stole his sight but not his vision. “I was a normal student till fifth standard studying in Nalgonda. One day, I was playing with my friends and one of them accidently threw the arrow in the air which struck my right eye. I was rushed to Sarojini Hospital in Hyderabad. They removed the needle of the arrow but the eye was damaged for life. Due to this, I lost a bit of sight on my left eye too. My life changed forever,” he recalls his emotionally draining incident. “It was tough for me to learn the braille script but I somehow managed to learn the basics in just 14 days,” he adds.
Madhu did his intermediate from Government Junior college at Aliya, opposite Nizam College and majored in BA psychology from Osmania University.
Madhu got selected for the state team in 2008 and played more than 12 tournaments. In 2014, he got selected for national team for the world cup. In 2015, he went on England tour to London and played three T20 matches and three one day matches.
“I scored 61 runs, which is my best score, during the India vs England match in London. I am the first from Telangana state to play for the World Cup 2014, considering both normal and blind cricket. I played two matches at the world cup. I took two wickets, two catches and one run out. I am an all-rounder,” he shares about his journey so far.
Madhu belongs to a humble family, raised by a single mother. He couldn’t afford his travel expenses and kits, while playing for the state. He struggled to represent the state until ‘I and eye’ NGO came forward to support him. “My travel expenditure, cricket kits and jerseys and also education was sponsored by them. ADP, a software company, who got to know me through the NGO, supported me during 2014 world cup,” he says with gratitude.
Madhu didn’t play for the recent world cup that was held a month ago as he was busy focusing on landing a job.
“I was working for a call centre. When I got selected for the world cup in 2014, I had to apply for leave for 45 days but the company rejected my plea. I had to quit. Cricket was the only thing on my mind. I won the match and met PM Narendra Modi. Sports ministry had also announced five lakhs reward. I came to the state and there was lot of media attention for a week. Later, my life came back to what it was before cricket. They didn’t bother at all. I met the CM too. He just congratulated me but didn’t respond to my job request so far,” he woes.
“My co-players from Kerala landed state government jobs as promised by their government. Three players from Andhra Pradesh are assured of government jobs. A few other states gave some prize money to their players but our state disappointed me,” he cries.
Madhu is desperately trying for a job under sports quota to support his family, which is dependent on him. He wants to help his eleventh standard sister pursue her passion of becoming a doctor.
“My mom is a cook at Government Disabled Department, but on temporary basis. She lives at disabled department as cook. I was also studying in the blind hostel. My sister was put up in orphan hostel. Three of us were in three different hostels,” he narrates his trails and turbulences.
“Even after winning at the international level, there is no acknowledgement. People were not even aware that there was something called blind cricket. The awareness began recently when Modi came forward and congratulated the recent world cup win. Even BCCI announced one crore to the blind cricket team.
This gives us hope that there is a scope for blind cricket. The awareness about blind cricket is deficient in India but in other countries, the blind cricketers are equally celebrated,” Madhu shares hoping against the hope. Madhu learnt the sport just by playing with his friends. “Only during international matches, they arrange for a coach and give us training but at the state level, we have no such facilities. We learn by ourselves. We can manage without coaches but not without grounds. If there is at least one ground allocated for us, we can learn and perform better,” he opines.
Madhu is still looking up to the Telangana government, hoping for a job to support his family and also play for the state and country.