Krishnachandran Karate - the Keralite who'll be lining up against India for the UAE
On the 28th of February, when India line up against the United Arab Emirates at the WACA Ground in Perth, most of India will obviously be cheering on the Men in Blue. But for the people of Kollengode, a small village near the town of Palakkad in Kerala, it will probably be a different story. That’s because one of their own will be strutting his stuff on the biggest stage for any cricketer. And he will be looking to gatecrash what seems to be set as an Indian party in Perth.
That man is called Krishnachandran Karate – UAE’s primary all-rounder who will be looking to emulate his idol Jacques Kallis, India’s tormentor on many an occasion. After the Emirates’ spirited showing in their first game against Zimbabwe, in which Krishnachandran didn’t make as big an impact as he’d have liked, the 29-year-old will see the game against India as the perfect opportunity to show the regional officials in Kerala what they have missed out on.
In school cricket, Krishnachandran played alongside and against the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Robin Uthappa. He went to the same college as Stuart Binny. But come Saturday, Binny will be in the enemy camp, and Krishnachandran will be looking to turn the smile on Binny’s face into a frown or a scowl, and lead the Emirates to the biggest ever win in their cricketing history.
Like many an Indian kid, Krishnachandran grew up playing cricket on the streets, often with makeshift cricketing equipment. And like almost all Indians, he too grew up worshipping Sachin Tendulkar. He too switched the TV off and went back out to play once the Master Blaster’s wicket fell.
Krishnachandran never really got the opportunity to make it big in the Indian domestic circuit. Although he got a couple of games for the full side in the 2007-08 Vijay Hazare Trophy, he could only rise as high as the Kerala Under-19 team, where he played alongside S Sreesanth, who not long ago was the face of Kerala cricket.
Now, nearly two years after Sreesanth shamed himself, Krishnachandran goes into the World Cup as the only man from the south Indian state, more renowned for producing footballers and track & field athletes than cricketers.
Living the dream in the UAE
Once Krishnachandran felt that his dream of playing cricket in India would never be realized, he moved to the Emirates, which is almost like a second home for Keralites. But Krishnachandran was not the run of the mill expatriate. He landed a job in Dubai but continued playing cricket due to his love for the game.
He captained the Fanatics Cricket Club, and caught the eye with his displays in warm-up matches when New Zealand went there in preparation for their series against Pakistan. Krishnachandran also put in a strong show in a series against Pakistan A, and in May 2014, his perseverance was rewarded as he earned a call-up to the UAE National Team for the Asian Cricket Council Premier League tournament.
Krishnachandran has grown to become an important cog in the UAE wheel. He started off the World Cup campaign impressively as he got the wickets of Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey and Mitchell Marsh in the UAE’s warmup game against the Aussies. He followed that up with a knock of 49 and a two-wicket haul in their next game against Afghanistan.
In scoring runs and picking up a wicket against Zimbabwe in the UAE’s first game of the tournament proper, Krishnachandran has already made history as the first Keralite playing for UAE to score a run and pick up a wicket in the World Cup.
For a man who grew up idolizing the same legends as the 15 representing India at this World Cup, playing in the World Cup would have been a dream. And although playing against India wouldn’t have quite been in the script, Krishnachandran can already be proud as he has done something that none of the millions of Keralite expatriates, and very few other Indian expatriates in the Gulf have.