A promising differently abled cricketer now drives e-rikshaw for survival

Ghaziabad : His love for cricket saw him overcome his disability but in sad state of affairs a national level player of cricket from Uttar Pradesh Raja Babu Sharma have been forced into driving e rikshaw due to financial crisis and government apathy. The relationship between Babu and cricket began at the age of 12 when he tried his hand at street cricket. In 2000, he started training at Aramina Ground in Kanpur. At the age of 23, he was playing district level tournaments. Babu told us, “In 2013, I played a few tournaments in Bijnor. At the same time, Amit Sharma, who was then the Director of DCA, asked me to join the association. I got the best player award in Uttarakhand Divyang Cricket Tournament 2015. The next year I became the captain of the UP team. According to Babu, those were some of the best years of his career. The left handed cricketer was identified as the explosive batsman. Raja Babu became a rage in the state and national level tournaments in the Divyang cricket circuit.

Sitting in a room full of trophies and medals, Babu does not let his voice express his disappointment. The hope of a return to the pitch is reflected in his words. He says, ‘In 1997, while returning home from school, I lost my left leg in a train accident. At that time my father was a Grade IV employee in the Railways and was posted in Panki, Kanpur. After the accident, my studies came to a halt as the family could not pay the school fees. The accident changed my life but I did not stop dreaming.

Despite one setback in the pandemic again, the Babu’s spirit remains intact. Raja explains that the corona virus epidemic changed the direction of both his career and life. Now he has to drive e rikshaw on the streets of Ghaziabad daily to take care of his family of four including wife Nidhi (27) and children – Krishna (7) and Shaanvi (4).

Even while playing cricket, Babu used to work here and there. Sometimes e-rickshaw was also run to increase the income. But the real trouble came in 2020 when the Divyang Cricket Association (DCA), a charitable organization for disabled cricketers in UP, was dissolved. The inflow of money stopped for Raja Babu Sharma. Babu says, ‘It really broke our back. For the first few months, I sold milk on the streets of Ghaziabad and drove an e-rickshaw whenever I got a chance. The rest of my teammates used to work as delivery agents and waiters at ‘Disabled Dhaba’ in Meerut during that time. It was opened by Amit Sharma, the founder and coach of Disabled Cricket Association. However, for more than two years, now Raja Babu (31) has been running the e-rickshaw on the roads of Ghaziabad.

Despite all this, the assurance of regular income and good bank balance could not be found. Like professional cricket, money does not flow in handicapped cricket. Babu says, “While playing the match, I also got medals and respect but that was not enough to survive. In 2022, I started playing wheelchair cricket again for Madhya Pradesh but due to the pandemic, only a few matches could be played. We are also cricketers but we did not get any help from cricket organizations during the pandemic. We were eating what good people used to distribute on the street. When the lockdown was imposed, I had a total of Rs 3,000 in the name of deposit. How many days did that go on? I changed the house twice as there was no money to pay the rent.

Umesh Kumar

Umesh is a senior journalist with more than 15 years of experience. Freelance photo journalist with some leading newspapers, magazines, and news websites and is now associated with Local Post as Consulting Editor

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