Among the millions of Indian fans who couldnt sleep the night India lost the 2003 World Cup final to Australia in Johannesburg was a local club cricketer,Ravi Varma. Six years on,Ravi will be playing at the same ground,and ironically still,living the dream of playing in a World Cup the 27-year old,now based in Abu Dhabi has made it to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) team that will play in the World Cup Qualifiers starting next month in South Africa.
Speaking to Newsline from Sharjah,a jubilant Ravi said,When I landed in the UAE,cricket was on my mind. Getting cornered in India had already broken my confidence,so I was conscious of the fact that the UAE was the only option left for me.
He added: Consistent performance in the domestic cricket circuit here helped me create a space for myself. After getting into the probables list for the WC qualifiers,I was hopeful of making the final cut. I am thankful to all who have been praying for me.
Apart from Ravi,two more Indians have made it to the UAE team Sameer Nayak and Nithin Gopal. The UAE will take on Bermuda in the first match on April 1.
The UAE will go on a brief tour to Sri Lanka in early March and then return home to play against the English county teams like Essex,Middlesex,Lancashire,Surrey,Sussex and Yorkshire. I am eager to show my skills against these teams before leaving for South Africa, said Ravi.
Back home in Dadumajra,the news has kept the Varma household buzzing with congratulatory messages from guests and relatives. An emotional Kishori Lal,father of Ravi and a cycle repair shopowner,said: Ravi wanted to make it to the top level in cricket. When no one acknowledged his potential here,he had to move to the UAE. Now that he has made it to UAE national squad,we are all so proud of him.
It was while playing for the LIC Club in Chandigarh that the club secretary,Deepinder Chabbra,helped him secure a job in Abu Dhabi which provided space for his cricketing aspirations to blossom. Chabbra,elated at Ravis selection,said: No one can stop fighters from getting their due. And Ravi is a fighter.
For Ravis wife,Manju,her husbands selection has been nothing short of a dream come true. It was his sheer hard work and love for the game that earned him a place in the side. I hope he does well for the UAE, said Manju.
Sukhwinder Singh Tinkoo,who coached Ravi during his early years,said: His hard work,discipline,determination and focus are examples for the other young players to follow. His poor financial background sometimes obstructed his progress as a cricketer but at the same time,his hunger for the game was always there.
Even after Ravi has made it to the UAE side,his heart still beats for India. I am very happy but my greatest wish ever was to play for India, said the cricketer.