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Life is such that it can feel harsh and even unfair when you don't have the means to pursue your passion. But what about our left arm seamer Kulwant Khejroliya, who never watched a single game of cricket on T.V or in a stadium until just a few years ago!
"As a kid, I would always aspire to be a cricketer, but due to financial constraints and with no support from my family, I had made peace with the fact that I would never be able to pursue it professionally, so I never watched it since childhood," he told Wisden India in an exclusive chat.
Hailing from a strict household in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, Kulwant would sneak out of his house to play cricket, as his father, a farmer would set out to complete his chores in the fields. Being the youngest sibling with the elder ones pursuing 'safer' career options like CA and teaching, his father was bound to be averse to his cricketing ambitions.
After completing his graduation, he attempted to clear competitive exams to get into the army and railway police, much in vain. Academics didn't appear to have been his calling, but there were much bigger things in store for him.
The family was still bogged with financial constraints, which was further affected with a loan taken for his sister's wedding. With his cricketing dreams still unfulfilled, he went to Goa to work in a restaurant, on a friend's recommendation. "It was year end, a lot of tourists were expected and since I could speak a bit of English, my friend said I had a good chance of being tipped heavily by foreigners."
Heart over head prevailed and Kulwant didn't settle on the pleasure of steady income. "Woh cricket ka junoon kabhi gaya hi nahi (That cricket obsession ceased to leave me)."
A call from a friend who had enrolled himself in a Delhi academy changed Kulwant's life. The self confidence was there now to make that Bold call to pursue his passion. Knowing that there wasn't any way he was going to convince his father, he told them that he bagged a job at a friend's firm in Ahmedabad, only to make his way to Delhi!
"I had read that Shikhar Dhawan, Ishant Sharma and Rishabh Pant were a part of the Sonnet Cricket Club and was really keen to join," he says. "Since I had never played with a season ball until then, I didn't want to make a fool of myself. So I joined the Uday Bhan Cricket Academy for a couple of weeks, it was more like an audition to prepare myself just to ensure that I could impress Tarak Sinha sir when I would meet him
"I didn't even own a pair of sports shoes, I went to his club wearing the fancy shoes which I wore for my sister's wedding…I was so naive."
He impressed Sinha, but needed to train with the season ball everyday. He joined the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy, where Gautam Gambhir trained, under Sanjay Bharadwaj's tutelage.
"Sanjay sir was kind enough to adopt me and take care of my expenses without expecting anything in return," said Kulwant of his coach in Delhi.
He made his debut for Delhi in List A cricket in 2016, making his way to the list of reserve players in the Ranji Trophy. He ultimately debuted for Delhi in the First class games in October 2017, guiding his team to the Ranji Trophy final enroute to taking 18 wickets in 7 games.
But his performances in T20 were even more spectacular, with his ability to bang the ball in towards the batsman's chin inspiring Delhi to clinch the Syed Mushtaq Ali 2018 trophy. His 14 wickets at an economy rate of about 6.5 was enough to convince the RCB management that he had the ability to Play Bold, ahead of the VIVO IPL 2018 auction in January.
2 wickets from 3 VIVO IPL games going at more than 9 per over were only modest returns for Kulwant, considering his form early on in 2018 for Delhi. But the early signs were promising, showing his all round bowling repertoire against Kings XI Punjab - signs that bode well for our future.