Born without a left arm, Nagpur all-rounder aiming to bowl to Virat Kohli before fifth ODI
“Obviously, because of my disability, I need assistance. But I have always tried to overcome the limitations of my condition and lead as full a life as possible. I have travelled the world, from the Antarctic to zero gravity.” - Stephen Hawking.
Hawking is just one out of the thousands of examples of indomitable spirits breaking past even the toughest of physical barriers.
From Jim Abbott to Oscar Pistorius, sport is filled with such stories of individuals overcoming physical limitations to reach the pinnacle of their respective fields.
In cricket, a bowler's non-bowling arm acts as a rudder, giving direction to the delivery and helping maintain balance in the follow-through.
Nagpur’s Gurudas Raut never had that liberty; he was born without a left arm. He had two options: either listen to the demeaning crowd about his disability, or pick up the red cherry and bowl. He chose the latter.
Today, he is an all-rounder in the Indian disabled cricket team. He once clean bowled Sachin Tendulkar in the nets, faced the bowling of Irfan Pathan, and took catches off David Miller’s bat.
“I remember people used to mock, threaten and bully me, and over everything, question how I would be a cricketer with a left arm. Well, today I am what I am. I used to hear comments like ‘You’re handicapped. Stay safe or else you’ll lose your other hand as well.’ It took me some time, but I realised they wouldn't ever stop and it’s better if I don't pay heed to their remarks,” Raut told Hindustan Times in a recent interview.
He is now looking forward to the possibility of bowling to Virat Kohli and the rest of the Indian team, as they land in Nagpur to play the final ODI of their ongoing series against Australia.
While Raut’s dreams are flying high, there is still work to be done, as far as disabled cricket’s presence in India is concerned. Long neglected, especially because of no affiliation to the BCCI, differently abled cricketers in India have been leading arduous lives, trying to somehow eke a living out of the game they truly love.
Recently, things have changed for the better, at least marginally.
Tied up in red tape, disabled cricket in India could not fall under BCCI's gamut, despite recommendations from the Lodha panel. Yet, the Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India (PCCAI), one of the three bodies that run disabled cricket in the country, did their part, making sure that cricketers received the recognition they deserved by handing them central contracts for the first time.
“This is just the beginning. It was in the pipeline for quite some time, but we are happy it has finally materialised. This is the best we could start with and we will increase the contract fee as we play more tournaments,” Ravi Chauhan, PCCAI’s general secretary, had told HT earlier.
Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh recently came to the assistance of India’s disabled cricketers, sponsoring clothes for the team before their tour to Afghanistan in June last year.
The Indian national blind team recently won the World Cup in Bangalore, beating arch-rivals Pakistan to clinch the trophy for the second time in succession. The attendance, and the media coverage, for the marquee clash was worth mentioning: a section of the crowd was as raucous as it would be on any given evening that the Royal Challengers Bangalore set the same ground alight.
Hopefully, Raut, who has played with Kohli & co. before, manages to catch the eye once again. A session with the Indian team would do wonders for his confidence, and will also serve as an example to countless individuals who tend to give up their dreams when faced with obstacles they feel are insurmountable.
Next time, when you relish watching two franchises vye for a particular player in the auction market of cricket’s biggest extravaganza, do spare a thought for several of these cricketers, who, for no fault of their own, are held back by physical limitations.
Their physicality might not match their more illustrious counterparts, but their mental toughness is just as sound, if not better, than most top athletes. One hopes that more Rauts push themselves out of the swamp of negativity that surrounds the differently abled and progress to live their dream.