In 2016, a 17-year-old exuberant youngster travelled from Guntiganapalli to Bengaluru in hope of furthering his desire to play professional cricket. Four years since stepping foot amidst the traffic jams and the fast-paced nature of the city, Karnataka's Shivashankar Subbarayappa is loving his cricket.
For those who know the hardships endured by the youngster to overcome mental blocks and disability at an early age, Shivashankar's journey seems straight out of a film.
However, for youngsters who are keen to elicit inspiration and kick-start their cricket career despite multiple hurdles, the 21-year-old's story is worth a peek.
Born and brought up in Guntiganapalli in Chickballapur, Shivashankar lost his right arm when he was just six years old after a bus ran over his hand while he was attempting to cross the road.
And yet, the spirit of cricket never died in him and currently, the hard-hitting all-rounder is an imperative part of the Karnataka disabled cricket team team. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Shivashankar spoke about how he has battled the odds to make it big in cricket and a lot more.
"At that age, I did not feel disabled. Only when I came to Bengaluru, I got that feeling. I was never brought up as a disabled kid. Since it happened at a young age, I got used to doing everything with my left hand," Shivashankar said.
After completing his school education in Yellempalli and receiving his PU degree from the National PU College in Bagepalli, Shivashankar arrived in Bengaluru to pursue a B.Com degree.
While working hard to earn his degree, Shivshankar parallelly Googled cricket academies in Bengaluru, and the first result that came up was the famed Karnataka Institution of Cricket (KIOC).
The youngster recalled how KIOC's founder, Irfan Sait took him under his wings and gave him an opportunity to pursue the sport. The youngster claimed that it was Sait who motivated him to continue his passion for cricket and helped him with all the facilities to make a name for himself
Shivashankara also made mention of one of his coaches, Nadeem, who ensured that the youngster had the financial support to play the sport. The all-rounder also acknowledged Nadeem's push for the youngster to be recognised by former India seamer, Zaheer Khan's academy.
"Irfan Sait Sir from KIOC helped me out. I did not have fees to pay but he gave me free coaching. I played a year with the juniors (U-14 level). At that time, I didn't know how professional cricket operated. I wanted to face quicker bowlers and play at the highest level, so I tried to keep improving," Shivashankar added.
Soon after, the all-rounder was promoted to the senior nets. By his own admission, getting used to the gear and the pace of the leather ball was hard, but his unwavering focus kept him going.
On the back of some impressive showings in practice matches, Shivashankar made his debut for the Karnataka disabled team in the 2016 South Zone tournament. The youngster finished as the highest-scorer from that tournament, which he feels was the turning point in his career.
Shivashankar then played for the Merchants team, played fifth division KSCA League and was going places. However, there was a time in 2017 when he did not have a bat to play with, which is when Karnataka Ranji player, Kaunain Abbas made an entry in his life.
"20 days before a tournament in 2017, I did not have a bat to play with. That time, Ranji cricketer Kaunain Abbas helped me out. He was in Mumbai, but he called me up and arranged a kit for me. The first match I played using that kit, I hit 96," Shivashankar recalled.
"Kaunain Abbas has been a mentor to me. Because I am a power hitter, my bats do not last. He has always helped me by purchasing new bats for me. Whenever I feel low, I call him up and I speak to him" he added.
Having idolized the batting styles of Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli, Shivashankar has worked on infusing both their styles of batting into his game. The youngster also fondly recollects meeting Jacques Kallis and learning the art of driving a full ball from the South African legend.
Aspiring to gain a platform by playing in the Celebrity Cricket League, Shivashankar hopes to play alongside some of Karnataka's best movie stars such as Kichcha Sudeep, Golden Star Ganesh in the foreseeable future. As for his best memory in his career so far, the youngster reminisced his short stint at the Royal Challengers Bangalore nets.
"Last year, I had gone to bowl at the RCB nets. Pawan Negi and Shivam Dube hit some powerful lofted shots straight to me and I took three catches. Ashish Nehra walked up to me and asked what I do. I told him I bowl Chinaman, and immediately he threw the ball to me and asked me to bowl. He praised my line and length, which is a great memory for me," the young all-rounder said.
While the all-rounder's journey has worked out for the better, his shift to Bengaluru in 2016 saw him undergo quite a few difficulties. The youngster emphasised on how he did not have a place to stay and could not manage his daily routine.
However, since the last six months, Shivashankar has received support from Mr Ravi Kumar, who is the captain of the Media United team at the corporate cricket level. The young all-rounder's gym routine and training is being taken care of and he's also received some sponsorship deals.
"Back in 2016, I didn't have shoes to wear. Now, New Balance sponsor my shoes, I signed a five-year contract with them in March 2019. Omtex sponsor my jersey. My bat is also sponsored," Shivashankar adds.
Currently spending some quality time with his family back home at Guntiganapalli, Shivashankar is enjoying feasting on his mother's home-cooked dishes. And yet, he remains committed to his fitness and puts his feet up at the end of the day to catch up with some comedy TV shows.
As for his final goal, the talented all-rounder is clear on embarking on a mission to play for the Indian team. Notably, Shivashankar made the final list of trials for the Indian team selection last year, but just missed out.
"I want to play for the Indian team. I made the final list of trials for the Indian team that were held in May last year, but I did not make the cut. Playing for India is the dream," Shivashankar said.
And with age on his side, Shivashankar is certainly not stopping anywhere before making his national team bow. For all the support he has received from family, friends and fellow cricketers, the youngster is proving to the world that disability is just another word in the dictionary. In fact, there aren't many obstacles that seem capable of deterring the all-rounder until he can achieve his ultimate goal - making his parents proud.
More importantly though, courtesy his journey, Shivashankar has reminded everyone that absolutely nothing can act as an impediment to your dreams.Published 21 Apr 2020, 13:09 IST