Friday, May 1, 2009
An Amazingly Uplifting Story of Kamran Khan
Story appeared in "The Age". About the latest Twenty20 sensation - Kamran Khan.
Or here it is:
From slumdog to cricketing hero
NOT many in cricket-crazy India had heard of Kamran Khan when Shane Warne tossed the ball to the 18-year-old fast bowler during the final moments of an Indian Premier League match in Cape Town last week.
The batting side needed seven runs to win, and Saurav Ganguly was at the crease. Warne was clearly taking a huge gamble by entrusting a rookie seamer with the ball. But in just two overs Khan, whose family is so poor that he slept on railway platforms when he travelled as he could not afford even cheap hotels, not only ensured victory for the Rajasthan Royals but also became India's latest cricketing hero.
Khan conceded just six runs in the final over against Kolkota thanks to Warne in the field preventing what would have been a winning second run with the final delivery.
With scores tied, a Super Over was required to settle the result. Warne again turned to Khan and the rookie left-arm slinger contained the Knight Riders batsmen to ensure victory.
A drop-out from a village school, the keen-faced left-arm quick barely comprehends English.
He said Warne "speaks English so fast" he has difficulty grasping his captain's instructions. When Warne handed him the ball and gave him a pep talk in the match against the Knight Riders, one of the words Khan could decipher was "pressure". Warne was telling him to relax and bowl normally.
Khan told the Indian Express later: "I have seen several major setbacks in my life. I am used to pressure."
Khan's father was a taxi driver in Nadwa Sarai village in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh state. But a lung ailment kept him mostly at home, and Khan's mother took to rolling bidis (the poor Indian's cigarette) to supplement the family's meagre income. His father died five years ago, followed three years later by his mother.
"We didn't have the money for proper medical treatment for our parents," said Khan's older brother Shamshad Khan. "Father would get angry and beat Kamran if he skipped school to play cricket. He wanted Kamran to join the army so he could earn something."
But Khan was so obsessed with cricket he even chiselled his first bat himself.
"Much later, when the villagers got together and bought him a proper bat, he was very happy," his brother said.
Khan's first break came when a cricket coach from a neighbouring village took him to Mumbai two years ago. In the big city Khan began playing with a proper cricket ball for the first time, and not with the cheap tennis balls used in the village.
"He struggled really hard," said the coach, Naushad Khan, who took him into his house. "He is strong and very determined. Back home, he would play in district cricket tournaments eating just tea and biscuits, since he didn't have money to buy food."
But as with the hero of the film Slumdog Millionaire, there was to be a fairytale twist to Khan's life. Rajasthan Royals' director of coaching, Darren Berry, spotted the teenager at a Twenty20 tournament in Mumbai two months ago, and signed him for £16,000 ($A33,000). Though not tall or very well-built, Khan bowls at more than 140km/h. And he can swing the bat.
"We have one young player who's going to be very interesting," the Royals' captain predicted.
"We're tossing up now what his nickname is going to be, Wild Thing or Tornado — something like that."
But Khan's initial rueful response was that had the money come earlier, he could have paid for the treatment his mother needed.