Meet Anil Gurav,Mumbai’s brightest star before Sachin Tendulkar

Meet Anil Gurav,Mumbai’s brightest star before Sachin Tendulkar



When Sachin Tendulkar started out,Anil Gurav was Mumbai's brightest star,offering him tips and once a bat. As Sachin calls it a day,Bharat Sundaresan meets the man who disappeared into the shadows. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


Far,far away from Wankhede Stadium and even further away from the man who is the cynosure of it,in a 200-sq ft cramped dwelling with paint peeling off the walls,lurks another Sachin story. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


On most days,at most hours,on a bare rickety bed here,in Mumbai's Nalasopara,you can find Anil Gurav. The smell of cheap alcohol rests around him,as do years of pain in his wild,staring,glazed eyes. It's his memory that remains the sharpest,particularly so these days. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


And as the Tendulkar story draws to a glorious end,these memories have been flooding back to Gurav: of how it was he who had once been the chosen one,of being called the Viv Richards of Mumbai,the next big thing from the city since Sunil Gavaskar,of playing with that curly haired boy from Bandra who had always been so talented,of teaching him a few tricks,and of once,long,long ago,lending a cricket bat with which the boy would hit his first competitive century — one of a historic many. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


Gurav also remembers every bitter detail about how he lost his own way,partly to many things beyond his control. Particularly a brother who strayed to the other,darker side of Mumbai. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


Nalasopara itself is the back of beyond — in Mumbai parlance,26 stations away from Churchgate if you board a slow train. To get there though is only the beginning of the ordeal. While the main market area in this outlying suburb bustles with activity,the only way to 'Tulinge Naka' is via a treacherous potholed road. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


Deep down in one of its narrowest lanes,lies a "landmark",'Trimbak Bungalow',in reality as dilapidated as its neighbouring slums. A walk past a few tattered shanties,side-stepping dog faeces and an overflowing drain,leads one to Kholi No. 5. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


There are some in the locality who are aware Gurav was once a cricketer. His achievements they know of only vaguely. To most,Gurav is what he seems: a 48-year-old incorrigible drunk striving to keep his family together. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


There was a time though when it was on his stumps that famed coach Ramakant Achrekar had placed a coin first — a sign in Mumbai cricket circles that meant you were the chosen one. Before Sachin,there was Gurav. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)


As he tells his story,we are constantly interrupted,by nosy neighbours either peeping through the window or the open door. Some smile wryly. Some shake their head in disgust. Some even dismiss his story as an inebriated rant. (IE Photo: Prashant Nadkar)