One afternoon during the mid-eighties in Mumbai Mr. Ramakant Vitthal Achrekar told two of his students, ‘Hey, if you ever wanna be a good cricketer, if not famous, then watch that boy playing and learn from him.’ Mr. Achrekar pointed his finger to an average-looking boy, playing in distance. The boy was busy with his net practice, easily hooked the bouncer trying to kiss his face.
Those two students of Mr. Achrekar were Sachin Tendulkar and Binod Kambli. And the other boy doing net practice was Mr. Achrekar’s most favorite student, named Anil Gurav. Yes, you are now definitely thinking – Hey, Mr. Achrekar’s most favorite student then why the hell haven’t I heard his name before? You haven’t heard Anil Gaurav’s name because his future had something different – not so pleasant – in store for him.
Well, my readers, if you want to know who that guy Anil Gurav is, then let me take you for a ride back in time. It was mid-eighties in Mumbai when Anil would be called ‘Viv Richards of Mumbai slum’. When he would be an automatic choice for any age-based team in Mumbai. His swashbuckling performance, his natural power in the stroke, swift glance made a storm in the Mumbai cricket world. The connoisseurs of Mumbai cricket started saying: Hey, look, the successor of the ‘Little Master’ Mr. Sunil Gavaskar has come. Everyone said, that it was just a matter of time for Anil to be included in the Indian cricket team. But As I have already said, his luck had something bitter in store for him.
It’s quite impossible to find a cricket lover who doesn’t love Sachin Tendulkar’s trademark batting style. But my reader, if I say that batting style was copied from that of Anil on the instructions of Mr. Achrekar, would you believe that? You have to. Because that is true, As true as the sun in the sky.
Sachin respected Anil very much and on one occasion, He indirectly asked for Anil’s bat. Anil agreed to give his bat, but Sachin had to promise to make a ton. Sachin kept his promise. He scored a century. Anil was very much pleased and asked Sachin to keep the bat forever. That bat is there, still on display in Sachin’s drawing room with numerous trophies.
Mumbai cricket world still says, sarcastically of course, when Anil gave his favorite bat to Sachin, He handed over his luck also to Sachin. Because after that, the late eighties witnessed Sachin’s meteoric jump to spotlight and Anil’s abysmal plunge into the dark tunnel of no end.
Anil’s elder brother Ajit had been a notorious criminal in the Mumbai underworld. So police harassment became a daily routine for Anil and his mother. Every other day cops stormed into their shanty in search of Ajit and when they couldn’t find him, picked up Anil and his mother instead. So during the late eighties when on one hand Sachin had been storming the field by scoring tons of centuries, on the other Anil had been facing harassment for hours in the police station for no fault of him.
At that moment of crisis, no one came forward to help the ‘Viv Richards of Mumbai slum’, to save the ‘Successor of Sunil Gavaskar’. Then in a desperate effort to escape bitter reality, Anil embraced alcohol. And thus the last nail was hammered into the coffin of the carrier of a promising cricketer who could have been the poster boy of millions of products and the household name of the cricket world. Who, now the resident of a two hundred square feet room in Nalasopara slum, could have been the neighbor of Sachin Tendulkar.
John Lenon said it right, ‘There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re destined to be…’