In the last two months, I’ve gorged on the reams of newsprint being spent for Sachin Tendulkar in what must have been the longest sporting farewell in history.
However, two subjects stayed on with me as most intriguing sub-plots of the bigger picture – those of Vinod Kambli and Anil Gurav.
Kambli, of course, is the childhood friend of Tendulkar and one of the batting sensations in the early Nineties till he went on to become a waster. Gurav, whom the Indian Express ‘unearthed’ in what was a brilliant piece of journalism, was the hottest name in Mumbai cricket as Tendulkar was cutting his teeth but lost his way as a victim of circumstance.
As Kambli was recovering after a heart attack in the Mumbai hospital, I was quite shocked at the lack of concern about him in the social as well as mainstream media. Yes, he got the plot terribly wrong – became an alcoholic, defaulted on payments and what’s more, accused Tendulkar on reality TV that he had not ‘helped’ him in his hour of need.
There is almost a Bollywood-like irony in the situation of the two friends whose relationship had gone sour. While one basked in all the glory, the other has his life turned upside down.
Nothing can possibly match the poignancy of Gurav’s story. Struggling to make ends meet at a dingy slum of Mumbai today, Gurav had to surrender the one love of his life – cricket – when he and his mother had to pay the price for his elder brother’s association with the underworld.
The police had tortured Anil so badly that he became a mental and psychological wreck – leave alone play cricket. Life is a burden for him now as his cricketing past mocks at him in the shape of the few trophies as mementoes. He told the interviewer that he wants the bat back that he had once gifted Tendulkar, but who would take him seriously?
Moved by the story, a fellow journalist wrote on Facebook: “When everything goes right in a cricketing career, it become the Tendulkar story. When it goes horribly wrong, it becomes the story of Anil Gurav.”
One can easily add Kambli’s name to that!