Thirteen years after taking to cricket, Tushar Paul realised his dream last week in England. The 36-year-old from Malda played no mean role in helping India win the T20 Physical Disability World Series, beating England by 36 runs in the final in Blackfinch, Worcestershire.
“We felt sad when the Virat Kohli-led Team India lost the World Cup semi-final in England. But we have managed to bring home the Cup. That makes it extra special. It’s a dream-come-true moment for me,” Paul, who returned home on Sunday with another team member from Bengal Debabrata Roy, told TOI.
A wicketkeeper-batsman, Paul featured in four matches in the tournament, including the final, effecting eight dismissals — four catches and four stumpings. “I kept wickets against Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and England, but didn’t get a chance to bat,” he said.
Paul had earlier toured South Africa and Pakistan as part of the Indian team. “But beating England in England in a World Series final feels different,” he remarked. Paul had his right ankle amputated when he was 10 and has been using a prosthetic leg ever since.
Recalling the horrific accident 26 years ago, Paul said, “I was riding my bicycle to my tuition class when I lost balance and fell. A bus coming from behind crushed my right ankle. I lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. I later heard that the ankle was irreparable and the doctors had to amputate it.”
But that did not deter his spirit. Paul used a prosthetic leg to resume normal life and, like many other kids, enjoyed playing cricket. “I was always a cricket lover, but in 2003, I joined disabled cricket and that changed my life,” he added.
A school teacher, Paul is thankful to his family for letting him pursue his dream. “Life would have been very ordinary if my parents and wife Mukti did not support my passion,” said Paul who has been teaching English in Raniganj KC High School in Malda since 2006.
“Even my school authorities have been a great help. They have always backed me in my cricketing endeavours,” he said.
Paul’s biggest fan, though, is his nine-year-old son. “Turjo was super excited when I was leaving for the tournament. He told all his friends that his dad would bring home the cup for India. I called him soon after we won,” Paul said, adding that Turjo also plays cricket and is a left-handed batsman.
Paul believes that cricket for the disabled has come a long way and things have improved over the years in terms of better hotels, playing kits, grounds and sponsors. “Things are looking better now, but I feel this World Series win will give disabled cricket the much-needed fillip,” he said.
Paul’s teammate Roy, who has disfigured legs caused by polio, didn’t get a chance to show his skills during the tournament, but was delighted nonetheless. Also a wicketkeeper, Roy started playing cricket in his teens.
“It feels great to win a trophy for India. I wish my father was alive to see this day. I missed him,” said the 31-year-old from Nadia’s Shantipur.
Source: Times of India