Ramkrishna Atha: Bengal cricket’s own little slumdog story

When Ramkrishna Atha emerged as the best player of a major inter-district cricket championship a week back,the talented left-arm spin bowler couldn’t have got his timing more appropriate.

Written by Nadim Siraj | Kolkata | Published:February 28, 2009 3:07 am

When Ramkrishna Atha emerged as the best player of a major inter-district cricket championship a week back,the talented left-arm spin bowler couldn’t have got his timing more appropriate. That’s because his tell-tale story — his struggle and rise from a far-flung corner of Bankura district to the toast of the Kolkata Maidan — can easily be hailed as Bengal’s cricket’s own little ‘Slumdog story’ of the season.

Earlier this month,the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) organised the state’s first ever Twenty20 championship involving all the 18 districts. And although the Bankura team had an ordinary outing in the tournament played in Siliguri,the player who stole the show was 26-year-old southpaw spinner Atha.

Hailing from Bankura’s backwater town of Sharada Palli,the shy and reticent cricketer impressed one and all with stunning bowling performances,winning the prestigious Player of the Tournament trophy — ironically the day before rags-to-riches film Slumdog Millionaire swept the Oscars.

However,it’s his struggle-ridden journey beyond the 22-yard stretch of Siliguri’s Kanchenjunga Stadium that makes one sit up. He stunned his opponents with unbelievable bowling figures of 6 wickets for 6 runs in one match,and 4 wickets for 3 runs in another.

Behind his cricketing exploits lie the real story though — of how the young gun overcame extreme poverty,of how the cricketer managed to find his way back after his mother succumbed to cancer,of how every single day is a struggle to make ends meet.

“Basically,my life has right throughout been a struggle,a struggle to make ends meet,a struggle to make things normal back home after my mother’s death,” the promising cricketer told The Indian Express at the Eden Gardens,as he carefully wrapped up the best player’s trophy given by the CAB.

“My life isn’t that of just another cricketer fighting to be the best. I come from a humble background,you have to understand. My mother Laxmi Rani used to sell puffed rice and my father Rabilochan is a group-D staffer with the local agricultural department in Bankura. So,I have to earn and keep the kitchen running at home while pursuing a career in cricket,” said Atha,who plays for Kolkata club Young Bengal,apart from representing Bankura district.

So,with little or no money to earn out of club cricket in Kolkata,where he is put up at the Koley market,Atha helps his father out on the financial front by peddling sports gear back in Bankura’s Station Road area where he stays now with his father.

“There’s constant pressure of me. It’s been a year now that my mother died of cancer,and I couldn’t even get her treated properly due to lack of funds. Then I had to get my sister married off,and my younger brother is studying at a local school. So,I have to constantly find ways to help my father out. So,I took to selling sports goods in Bankura as a way of making some quick money,” Atha recalled.

The cricketer recalled how his family was forced to move out of a shanty three seasons back,when the tiled roof caved in and hurt his mother critically. It took her months to recover,but then she was diagnosed with cancer and eventually passed away a year ago.

It seems adversity has only hardened him more than ever. Quickly learning the ropes in the art of left-arm spin bowling,which is a rarity in Bengal cricket,Atha spent a few years in the Kolkata Maidan and kept getting better. He finally chose the recent inter-district Twenty20 event to announce his arrival — emerging with astonishing hauls of six wickets in one match and four in another.

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