Dayananda Garani still doesn’t “know how it happened”. Seven years ago, while playing for Kolkata Police, he was manning traffic on busy Kolkata streets as a Civic Police Volunteer. Three years down the line, he was with the Andhra Ranji team, first as a masseur and then also doing duty as a throwdown specialist. During this edition of the IPL, Garani was giving throwdowns to KL Rahul and his teammates as a Kings XI Punjab support staff in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In a few days, Garani would be flying to Australia from Dubai as a part of the touring Indian cricket squad. With the Indian team’s regular throwdown specialist Raghu being ill, Garani has been drafted in as a replacement.
“A few days back, Kings XI Punjab manager Avinash Vasantrao told me not to break the bio-bubble, for I would be going from our franchise’s bio-bubble to the Indian team bio-bubble. I don’t know who recommended my name but it’s a dream come true,” Garani told The Indian Express from Dubai. The Indian squad members for the Australia tour, starting November 27, are camping in the United Arab Emirates at the moment.
Garani’s father Lakshmi Kanta is a farmer at Jamitya village. Cricket came to his life via Kolaghat Cricket Club, where he was paid Rs 80 per month for playing. Still it was expensive for a family that struggled to make ends meet.
“Dr Malay Pal and Koushik Bhowmik of Cricket Club 80 helped me a lot, both financially and by encouraging me to go to Kolkata to have a cricket career. One-way journey from Kolaghat to Kolkata took more than three hours. I used to return around midnight and the next day the alarm was set for 4 am. Many an occasion, I stayed at their (Malay Pal and Koushik Bhowmik) places,” Garani recounted.
He cycled 10 kilometres every day from his village to take a train from Kolaghat to Kolkata. Kolaghat is a town in East Midnapore about 65 kilometres off the state capital.
He was a medium pacer. After playing for Baranagar Sporting Club and White Border Sporting Union in the CAB league, Garani joined Kolkata Police in 2013. “Financial constraints stopped my cricket after that. Debraj Nahata, the secretary of the Kolkata Police Club, helped me get the Civic Police job. He also advised me to do fitness training and masseur courses. I did a diploma on nature therapy apart from doing a certificate courses on strength and conditioning. I also earned a degree in massage therapy,” Garani elaborated on his journey.
In 2015, former Bengal batsman Alokendu Lahiri, who was playing for Kolkata Police Club then, introduced Garani to Bengal Ranji team trainer Sanjib Das. The latter helped him get into the Andhra Ranji team as a masseur in 2016. “I started to give throwdowns at the nets as well. My club cricket background helped and gradually I became good at that,” said the 28-year-old, who gave throwdowns to the likes of India batsman Hanuma Vihari at the Andhra nets.
During a Ranji Trophy match, Punjab coach Munish Bali liked what he saw and recommended Garani’s name to the KXIP management. “Yes, he was the reason why I got the KXIP job this year. There have been a lot of pleasant memories from the IPL, sharing the dressing-room with the players and Anil bhai (Kumble). Of course, I wasn’t expecting the India call-up. But I’m ready for the challenge.”
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