Promising Azhar Ansari, who earned a maiden call-up for the Ranji ODI squad, recalls how his parents couldn't afford a cricket kit for him
Suhrid Barua, Pune Mirror, February 12, 2009
A year back, his parents couldn't even afford to buy his cricket kit. If that was not enough, his parents strongly disapproved his desire to pursue cricket seriously. But Azhar Ansari managed to tide over all that in his steely resolve towards making it big in the sport."My parents didn't approve me taking up cricket. They felt that education was important as they saw no future in me playing cricket seriously at that time. Ever since I made it to the Maharashtra Under-19 team, my parents have given me a free hand to pursue cricket with all dedication as they know that if I stay focused and keep performing, there is a future for me in cricket," Azhar recounts his struggling days.
Probe him more about his early days in the game, he wears a broad grin about playing in local tournaments in Nandurbar district with borrowed cricketing paraphernalia from his cronies. "I initially started playing in tennis ball cricket. Gradually, I used to borrow pads and gloves from my friends to play in the real ball game."Life took a 'significant' turn when his prolific run with both the bat and ball (500 runs and 38 wickets) in the MCA Under-19 Invitation League for the 2007-2008 season catapulted him to being selected in the Maharashtra under-19 team. Everybody seems to talk about his brilliant 119 against Mumbai in the C.K. Nayudu (Under-12) Trophy match at Deccan Gymkhana, where he capped off a dream run, snaffling four wickets and pulling off two brilliant catches. "It was my day, I guess. I performed with the bat, ball and in the field," he says.
Even MCA president Ajay Shirke was bowled over by that innings. "You should have seen innings. Azhar was outstanding that day. He's an exciting prospect for us."Rewind to today, Azhar is picked in the 16-member Maharashtra Ranji one-day team on the back of a string of power-packed performances. But that joy is laced with apprehension because he is yet to recover from a left ankle injury which he sustained in one of the practice games. In fact, Azhar belted a magnificent 100 off only 99 balls in a crucial stand with Kedar Jadhav after Maharashtra Red were in a spot of bother at 60 for 4 in the penultimate practice tie at Pooma Club on Tuesday and was rested for Wednesday's final warm-up game so that he can recover fully for the opening Ranji ODI against Gujarat on February 15. "My physio Abhishek Joshi is looking after me. He's confident that I would be fit as a fiddle for the first game against Mumbai. Of course, the dream of playing for the Maharashtra Ranji team is the ultimate thing, I know for sure that day is not far off if I keep scoring runs consistently," he sings an optimistic tune.