From a sleepy village in Kashmir to the dressing room of Kings XI Punjab, it has been a long walk for Manzoor Ahmad Dar.
And while the Rs 20 lakh spent by the IPL franchise to acquire his services doesn’t mean much in the cash-rich cricket league, it is a jackpot for a someone compelled by financial distress to drop out of school and work as a private security guard at an automobile showroom in Srinagar.
“Today is the biggest day of my life,” the 24-year-old Dar told The Indian Express after he was bought by the Mohali-based franchise. “It is difficult to translate my happiness in words”.
Dar is the only cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to make it to the Indian Premier League this year. While two other players from the state – international cricketer Parvez Rasool and fast bowler Umar Nazir – also went under the hammer in Bangalore, they remained unsold.
Known as ‘Pandav’ for his impressive physique, the 6-foot-2-inch Dar made his debut for the Jammu and Kashmir team in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year.
A resident of Suganpora Ganastan, a small village in north Kashmir’s Sumbal town, Dar’s life has been an inspiring journey of struggle against poverty and prejudice.
“Only I know how much I have struggled to get into the state (cricket) team,” he said. “All my life, I have worked hard and today my hard work has come to fruition.”
The son of a labourer, Dar started playing cricket in his village as a 10-year-old. But he came into spotlight when he started to hit big sixes in local matches, and soon came to be known as the “sixer man” of Kashmir.
Dar had to move out of his village for work. Being the eldest sibling, the financial distress at home compelled him to work as a security guard to earn a living for his family. For over four years, he would work at a Srinagar automobile showroom at night and try to realise his cricketing dream in the valley.
The showroom where Dar worked was around 10 kilometers from the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium – the practice venue for Dar and other budding cricketers of the valley. And as, on many days, he would not even have money for the bus fare, he would pedal down to the stadium and back.
“I was first getting just Rs 2,800 per month. It was then increased to 3000 rupees,” he said. “What is important for me is not the money that IPL would fetch me. The important thing is that it is the fruit of my struggle.”