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From slums to Lord’s — Mumbai kids’ story of valour

While the Men in Blue are on their quest of winning the ICC Cricket World Cup title for the third time, there aren’t many people who know that one world cup trophy has already been lifted by a handful of children at the Lord’s Cricket Ground last month.

FPJ Bureau | Updated on: Monday, June 24, 2019, 11:10 AM IST

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Mumbai: While the Men in Blue are on their quest of winning the ICC Cricket World Cup title for the third time, there aren’t many people who know that one world cup trophy has already been lifted by a handful of children at the Lord’s Cricket Ground last month. From Kapil Dev lifting the World Cup trophy in 1983 to Sourav Ganguly unfurling his jersey in the air after clinching the NatWest Trophy in 2002, the Lord’s balcony has seen it all and was testimony to the fact of various heroic deeds by numerous Indians at several cricketing events. Interestingly, the home of cricket has now witnessed eight Indian children lifting the trophy of Street Child Cricket World Cup (SCCWC) defeating hosts England at their home turf.

Nine international teams — England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Mauritius, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and India, took part in the world championship. The gender neutral cricket tournament was organ — a UK based organisation. Mumbai based NGO — Magic Bus, was associated with the event and provided sponsorship and logistical support to the players.  Out of all the members of the winning team, there are three children from the slums of Cheeta Camp, Trombay (Mankhurd) who emerged as heroes following their triumph with the bat and ball. But life was not always the same for them.

“Being girls we were not allowed to play in the ground,” says 15-year-old Bhavani Mayavan. “But now people leave the turf to make space for us to play,” she said. Bhavani represented the team as a wicket keeper and part-time bowler. In the finals, she took two crucial wickets that later turned the match in India’s favour. An ardent MS Dhoni fan, Bhavani learnt cricket only by watching her brother play. Now she aspires to be a sportswoman and become a trendsetter in the community, as she feels her success may inspire other girls to come out of their houses and empower them.

Fourteen-year-old Shama Siddiqui, who was the additional wicket-keeper and batsman in the team, shares similar sentiments. “In our community, girls are not allowed to have ambitions, but now that we have achieved something, we want our actions to inspire others,” she says. Shama can’t wait to finish her studies, as she aspires to become a doctor so that she will be able to support her ailing father who is a taxi driver. She also plans to help patients who are financially challenged once she completes her studies to become a medical expert. Mohd. Irfan is the reserved one from the lot. Though he was the bowling all-rounder of the team yet cricket is only a hobby for the 15-year-old as he wishes to become an artist once he grows up, while his father wants him to become a banker and live a decent life. Irfan loves to sketch and is the recipient of several accolades in art competitions.

“I want to fulfill my father’s dream by making a decent living and fulfilling my aspirations as well,” he says timidly.  Though the children did not receive any formal training, yet it was only by watching online tutorials of the game, that they honed their skills. “Tanzania was the toughest opponent, as they were stronger and tactful in their approach,” said Shama. But amidst the journey of cricket the children feel that the tour was an opportunity for self growth. “We learnt severe life lessons from the whole journey like teamwork and perseverance,” said Irfan.  Team India lost against England in the qualifying rounds but defeated them later in the finals. “We were taught to not to be overconfident but to be patient,” said Bhavani.  Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly was the goodwill ambassador of the tournament who congratulated the team by sending a message following their triumph. 

- Pratip Acharya

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Published on: Monday, June 24, 2019, 11:10 AM IST