Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar amassed tons of runs and fans before retiring from all forms of the gentlemen’s game last month. Virat Kohli is steadily climbing the ladder of success and has been unofficially crowned country’s new blue-eyed boy of cricket. Meanwhile, Ahmedabad lad Avi Barot — who now represents Haryana in domestic competition — is trying to make space for himself in the domestic circuit with a dream to play at the highest level in future.
Now, there is one thing — besides they being batsmen — that is in common among the three. All three lost their fathers in the middle of an important match or tournament. And all three, putting their pain aside, rescued their team with timely knocks.
Circa May 1999: ICC World Cup in England. India — despite having a formidable line-up — suffered a loss against South Africa. It was then that Sachin was informed about his father Ramesh Tendulkar’s demise. The master left the WC and came down to India to perform the last rites. In the meantime, mighty Men in Blue were tamed by minnows Zimbabwe, handing them second successive loss of the tournament.
With the team needing him desperately, Sachin put his personal tragedy behind and flew back to England. Batting at number four, Sachin (101-ball 140) slammed a terrific century and shared an unbeaten 237 run partnership with Rahul Dravid (104*) to lead India to a comprehensive win against Kenya. On that day, his century celebration was different. He looked upwards as if taking blessings from his ‘Baba’, which then became his trademark to rejoice every milestone. India entered the Super Six, and the rest is history.
Seven years later — in December 2006 at Feroz Shah Kotla — hosts Delhi faced Karnataka. At the end of second day’s play young Virat Kohli — in his debut season — was overnight batsman and Delhi were 103/5 struggling to save follow-on. The same night his father passed away. Virat was in two minds whether to play or not.
Rajkumar Sharma (Virat’s coach since his childhood) — who was in Australia — advised him not to let go off a chance since it is so difficult to make it to the team. It was difficult for Virat, who wasn’t reacting to anything. His mother understood the pulse of the situation and advised him to continue playing.
The youngster arrived at Kotla, scored 90 and bailed his team out of danger of follow on. From there, he directly went to his father’s funeral. Arguably, that was the turning point of Virat’s thinking, as that unfortunate incident shaped his career.
Fast-forward: Diwali 2013. When the whole country was celebrating Rohit Sharma’s terrific double hundred in ODI and waiting for a new dawn, songs of melancholy were heard in Barot’s residence. Senior Barot had passed away due to a heart attack.
Arun Barot was very passionate and possessive about his son’s career. When he realised it was difficult for Avi to cruise into Gujarat team, he burnt the midnight oil to ensure Avi got an opportunity to exhibit his art. Haryana was the destination finalised in October 2013. After the historic Sachin Tendulkar match at Rohtak — which he witnessed from Haryana bench — Avi returned home for a break and Diwali.
The sudden departure of his father played on Avi’s mind and he refused to return. But his coach Kalpesh Patadiwala convinced him and the youngster rejoined his team. With a heavy heart Avi joined Haryana and earned his first Haryana cap against Vidarbha. The 21-year-old played as a batsman and whacked a half-century and got emotional. Haryana lost that match, but that knock of 64 was enough to boost his morale.
Today, after four matches, he is among the three leading scorers for Haryana. On Saturday, Haryana suffered fourth loss when Punjab escaped with three-wicket win. It won’t be surprising if Avi is asked to keep wickets too.
Nitin Saini’s blunders behind the wickets at the crucial stage of the match on Saturday may prompt captain Amit Mishra to change his keeper. That, only time will tell. But as of now, Avi has joined the gallery of cricketers who overcame their tragedy with flying colours.