HYDERABAD: Chintapalli, a village in Anantapur district, is not even a speck on India’s cricketing map. But this didn’t bother spinner Hanumappa Shivaraj. Nor was he deterred by his poverty or lack of guidance. He took inspiration from the MS Dhoni story, the template for any aspiring cricketer from a backwoodsy village.
“When Dhoni could become a famous cricketer coming from a small town, I thought why not me? I’m really inspired by his story,” he says. The 24-year-old’s persistence and hard work paid off when he was selected in Andhra Pradesh’s Ranji cricket team for the upcoming season.
Though he fell in love with the game at a young age, he had no means to pursue it on a serious note. The son of a daily-wage labourer, Shivraj, who tilled land, struggled to make ends meet, sometimes even going to bed hungry. If he plays for the team, he will be earning over `10 lakh.
The turning point in his life came during a visit to Bengaluru, close to his village, a decade ago. “I went to Bengaluru and watched cricketers at training camps. In one of the camps I got to bowl. I watched the coaches teaching and I began to practise myself.”
Some of his fellow cricketers helped him with shoes, kits and jerseys. “Some of the batsmen wanted me to bowl to them and I could earn some money too. Bowling for long hours at the nets helped me learn the intricacies of off-spin,” recalls Shivaraj.
He got an opportunity to bowl in the Karnataka Ranji team nets before he got another such opportunity with Mumbai Indians. This year, the Ranji selectors could no longer ignore him.
It might take years for him to reach his idol’s pedestal; maybe he may not, but for Shivaraj it could just be the beginning.