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His bus conductor mother praying back home, Atharva Ankolekar steers India to U-19 Asia Cup title

Atharva Ankolekar was adjudged Man of the Match in the U-19 Asia Cup final in Colombo on Saturday after he took a five-wicket haul against Bangladesh.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai |
Updated: January 17, 2020 11:54:49 am
Atharva Ankolekar steers India to U-19 Asia Cup title Atharva was adjudged Player of the Match and finished the eight-team tournament as the highest wicket-taker. (Express photo: Pradip Das)

Vaidehi Ankolekar, a bus conductor with Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) in Mumbai, rushed to her boss at the bus depot in Marol near Andheri on Saturday with a request for an off. The bosses couldn’t say no to her plea as her son Atharva was playing for India in the final of the Under-19 Asia Cup cricket tournament in Colombo in Sri Lanka.

The leave was granted but another problem awaited at home. The cable TV at her house didn’t have the sports channel that was live-telecasting the game. In order to catch the action, Vaidehi hurried to her in-laws place nearby and spent the rest of the day praying for her son. Her prayers didn’t go unanswered.

Atharva, who is a left-arm spinner, starred with a five-wicket haul to enable India beat Bangladesh by five runs in a low-scoring thriller to retain the Asia Cup title. Batting first, India were all out for 106 in 32.4 overs. Atharva ran through Bangladesh’s middle and lower order, including two wickets in what turned out to be the final over of the match. He was adjudged Player of the Match and finished the eight-team tournament as the highest wicket-taker (12).

Back in Mumbai, an emotional mother was overwhelmed.

“I just hope that his father would have seen this. He made his father proud today, he made everyone proud today,” Vaidehi told The Indian Express.

Atharva Ankolekar steers India to U-19 Asia Cup title His mother Vaidehi is a bus conductor in Mumbai. (Express photo: Pradip Das)

Single mom

When Atharva was ten, his father Vinod Ankolekar had passed away. To support her two sons, Vaidehi took up her husband’s job of conductor in BEST.

“I was just praying to Ganpati Bappa that you have to make his day today. When 12 runs were needed and two wickets were in hand, I was hoping that they would give the ball to Atharva. He has waited for this moment for so long,” she said.

A single mother’s life isn’t easy, of course. “We didn’t have money to buy his cricketing shoes, someone had helped him. Other day Atharva had called and said not to buy shoes for his younger brother (who is part of Mumbai’s under-14 probables). He said he would buy them from the money he got as daily allowance in Sri Lanka,” she added.

Her son might have been the star of the Under-19 Asia Cup final, but Vaidehi remains worried about his future.

“Achha job mil jayega toh I will be tension-free. You know job is very important in today’s time. One offer had come but he couldn’t able to make it for trials as he was playing a match for India Under-19,” she said.

Back at work, Vaidehi is enjoying the little limelight she has gained in the past few weeks. Apart from her colleagues, some regular passengers have been enquring about her son’s progress. The limelight, though, has added extra pressure on Atharva. During one of his calls to her from Sri Lanka, said Vadehi, Atharva spoke about his performances not being up to his satisfaction.

“He said, ‘News have come in all the papers but I am not too happy with my performances.’ There was a bit of tension if he would be picked for the final or not,” she added. On Saturday, though, everything went like a dream.

Atharva wants his mother to leave the conductor job and take up something less taxing, like teaching. Atharva feels that the current job has left her stressed leading body aches every now and then.

“I don’t want my mother to continue her job. I want her to teach, let me do all the hard work,” Atharav had said before the tournament.

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