Updated: October 13, 2015 7:33:29 pm
For a period of five months last year, as he spent warming the bench on the tours to New Zealand and England, Ishwar Pandey seemed on the brink of making his international debut. But it wasn’t to be. The lanky Madhya Pradesh seamer hasn’t been part of an India squad ever since, and his dream of national colours has gone from being elusive to remote.
That, however, has had little impact on his popularity back home in Rewa, with his house continuing to be flooded with requests and people seeking favours. Some of them odd, some simply outlandish.
On account of being the tiny city’s first cricketer to make it to the Indian squad, Ishwar, is used to doting fans from his district routinely lining up at his doorstep with outrageous demands. These include asking him to throw his weight behind stopping a government-transfer and, in some cases, desperate fathers pleading with him to find their sons a job, or an admission in an engineering or medical college.
International cricket has come to MP with Indore set to host the second ODI between India and South Africa on Wednesday. And even though Ishwar isn’t part of the team, and Rewa is 700 kilometers from the venue, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing and he continues to be the most sought-after cricketer in the state. MS Dhoni & Co might well be beyond their reach, but for the locals, who are in possession of the most important phone number, Ishwar is their only hope to get tickets for the match. To the extent that, Ishwar, who has made the journey from Rewa to Indore to meet and greet his erstwhile Indian teammates, has been constantly interrupted by the pleas for tickets.Some are even requesting him to take them to meet the Indian cricketers. Local knowledge also drives him to reach out to the Indian players with warnings of his own. He has texted Virat Kohli to stay away from a particular hotel as he will be mobbed there and things might get out of control.
This time it might be for tickets, or to procure autographs, but his phone is always ringing with requests of different sorts. At times, his family have to inform the unrelenting on-lookers that their son had moved out of there. Sometimes, even politicians call up, asking for help.
“Rewa is a very small town. People love cricket here but we’ve never had a cricketer who went on to play for the national team. When I’m home it’s natural that people will come and meet me, get photos or shake hands. They make you feel like you’re a very special person,” he reasons.
Besides the man on the street and local politicians, Ishwar’s regular visitors have even included builders with brochures trying to coax him into investing on discounted properties in upcoming townships around Rewa. “I oblige the people who wait for hours to see me, but there are some other requests too, which I don’t know how to deal with,” he quips. “I have to make them understand that some things are not in my hands. Many don’t know me by face but the whole town thinks that there is an India cricketer from this place and they can get anything done through me,” says Ishwar.
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