In a country where cricket is more than just a game and people worship cricketers, many young players dream of playing for India. 27-year old Abhinandan Upadhyay is no different, but the only difference separating Upadhyay from the rest is his disability.

Abhinandan fell in love with the sport through his friends when they suggested him to play with leather ball. He grew determined to play the game and learnt it quickly and now he is the middle-order batsman and a left-arm chinaman bowler for the Indian disabled team.

Despite having a deformed right hand with a conjoined index and middle fingers, Abhinandan has always been encouraged to do whatever he can. Recently he set what could possibly be a world record when he scalped 10 wickets in a local tournament leading his team to victory.

Of course, these players don’t get nearly as much attention as the able-bodied ones but they have never failed to inspire and encourage the world. Abhinandan currently plays as a contracted player for Dena Bank in tournaments. Based in Goa for the last five years, he is putting in the hard yards at the GCA Academy Ground, Porvorim on a regular basis.

Abhinandan Upadhyay knows his reality isn’t the same as others, but he still has high hopes.

 

Read: For Nitin Tomar, a man shaped by his past, PKL glory offers the promise of a bright new future

Excerpts

Tell us a little about your life, background and how did you get into cricket?

I started playing cricket when I was small few of my friends encouraged me in playing cricket started playing with softball (tennis ball) after seeing my game many people and friends around me suggested to play with the leather ball and after getting proper coaching I started my journey as a professional.

When did you start taking cricket seriously and who played an important role in helping you realise your potential?

My coach Shri N. K Sharma sir played an important role in making me a better person and a good player both on the field and off the field. He guided me in every situation to get the better out of me. I feel lucky to have a coach like him.

Cricket is a popular sport in India but except men’s team, other teams are yet to be recognized. How can it be changed in future and what recognition really players expect?

Cricket is a very popular game in India just like women’s cricket BCCI should undertake physically challenged cricket as well and the level of cricket we play is worth watching this will solve our financial problems so that we would focus more on our cricket.

You might have seen players hit sixes with both hands in my team there are few players who can hit 70 m sixes with one hand. Once you come to see our matches you will feel the level of cricket is very high.

“Physically challenged cricketers are more dangerous in shorter format as compared with the normal players.”

What’s the major change one has to undergo playing disabled cricket from a normal one?

When you play with normal players you are aware that they will play according to the level of cricket when your playing disable cricket you can never be expected what is gonna happen example your good ball can get hit for six and after the match, you can only wonder what have I done wrong. Physically challenged players are more dangers players in shorter format as compared with the normal players.

China man bowler itself is one of the rare-breed, so how did you get into it?

Again the credit goes to my coach Shri N.K Sharma sir. Today people use to like my bowling and it’s all because of Sharma sir he helped me become a better spinner. He taught me how to bowl top spinner bowl, googly and flipper bowling variation.

Can you simplify china-man bowling for a normal fan?

The only difference between a leg-spinner and Chinaman bowler is the hand. Chinaman bowler uses to bowl leg spin with the left hand. It’s a rare variety and takes time to perfect. Chinaman bowling can be used as a weapon to get wickets googly and the top spinner is very difficult to play.

Describe your record-breaking performance of 10-wicket haul in T20 match?

I would like to repeat this day of my life again and again. The pitch was supporting spinner and I came to bowl I was hitting the good areas and making difficult for the batsman. I got wickets mostly on my googly and top-spinner. I took the hat-trick on the last three balls of my spell. 4-1-10-10. I think this was my dream spell.

 

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What is the level of support you received from the Goan association?

Goa Cricket association helps me a lot they provide me the indoor facility to practice and whenever I need help they understand me.

Being a part of sunrises Hyderabad developmental squad, how was it working with Dhawan and other Sunrises squad members? 

I was the part of Sunrisers Hyderabad development squad. Muttiah Muralitharan appreciated my bowling and I was bowling to all the SRH players and people there use to like my bowling. Few days after Murli sir gave a statement about me which was very motivating for me. SRH players liked my bowling as I took many wickets in the net session

One match that you are very proud of?

The match where I took 10 wicket haul. Hattrick in the last over, I am proud of my performance in that match.

What your goals for the future?

The future goal is to play for India and help all the budding cricketers avail the platform which they deserve. I would also like to develop cricket in India more as I think many Young talents gets wasted just because they don’t get the proper opportunity so would like to help them when I become old.

Rapid-fire

Top tracks you listen to: Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai ho sake to isme Zindagi bitado; Kuch to log kahenge logo Ka kaam hai kahna. Sometimes Enrique Iglesias and Akon song.

Food craving: Panner butter masala with ice cream and hot gulabjamun.

Spectator sport: Table tennis and Ludo

Being Goan, what do you most enjoy in your place? In Goa, I like to walk around the beachside at night around the seashore spend some lonely time be myself and enjoy the nature.

If not cricketer, what would you be now: If not cricketer I would be a social worker would love to work for the welfare of the people and whenever I get time use to help people and nature by planting seeds in the motherland.

Hobbies: Playing Ludo and watching old movies

If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of another athlete, who would it be and why?

Karoly Tacas (won the 25 m gold in Olympics with his left and right hand)

 


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