They say that if a man wills, he can make has own destiny. Though the adage is inspiring it is not exactly true.
Fate is that supreme, unconquerable, and invisible something that eventually pronounces the judgement on how a man has lived. This is why we often see people failing to make a mark despite having the same set of skills and talent using which someone else becomes famous. It is not that there are less talented men than the superstars we adore. It is not that those who couldn’t make it did not give their all. It is just that fate had in store for them a different tale than it has for the chosen few.
IE Photo Prashant Nadkar
Anil Gurav is 51 and lives in Nala Sopara – his house located along one of the many dingy bylanes of Mumbai. A frail figure with short white hair, Gurav is one of the myriad faces we encounter daily on the streets, in the trains or any other crowded place – faces we never take a note of.
But this very man could have been living a life of opulence. He could have been a name and face that had the power to sell hundreds of products to millions. This man could have been living in a posh bungalow in the very city where he now resides in a cramped 200-square-feet room.
Yes, Gurav could have been the God of cricket if fate had not played one of its cruellest games with his life.
It was the late 1980s and Anil Gurav’s talent with the cricket bat was recognised by even his coach Ramakant Acharekar- the same great man who is known as the coach of Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin Tendulkar, then a young boy, being instructed by Ramakant Acharekar.
Acharekar once placed a coin on his stumps signalling that Gurav was the one who would be the king.
Such was his dexterity with the bat that Acharekar told a young Sachin Tendulkar to observe Gurav’s style of play.
Being an equally talented young boy, Tendulkar listened to the advice of his guru and keenly observed every stroke that Gurav made.
Since Gurav was a senior, Tendulkar addressed him as ‘Sir’. On one occasion, Sachin desired to play with Gurav’s bat. He was given the bat by Gurav himself who asked the soon-to-be Master Blaster to hit a big score. Sachin slammed a century with it and kept the bat as a memory.
Of course, Gurav’s talent justified every hope his coach had from him. A promising talent of such calibre cannot remain away from the eyes of selectors and coaches, and so it happened. But since fate had other plans for him, Gurav was unable to perform before the coaches the same way he used to in other matches.
But there are many who miss opportunities only to get them at a later stage and make it big. Fate was, however, crueller in case of Gurav.
While Anil was the hope of his coaches, Ajit was the hope of the underworld. The younger Gurav was a sharpshooter – a skilled one at that – and was quickly rising on the rap sheet; Anil Gurav was perhaps unaware that he would be paying for the crimes of his younger brother for the rest of his life.
Being the brother of a wanted man meant that Anil had to answer to the police from time to time about his brother’s whereabouts. This often meant that he had to skip his matches.
As is evident, the Guravs were from the lower ranks of the society. If it was not for his cricketing exploits, Anil Gurav would have faced an even harsher wrath of the police for a longer time. The police, for obvious reasons, thought that the family knew of the whereabouts of Ajit but the Gurav family, including his mother Sumitra, always denied. In fact, Anil stresses that they had no connection with Ajit.
Yet all of this sent Anil Gurav’s life out of gear. He lost his focus and more opportunities, if there were any.
Anil confesses that a part of his downfall was his own mistake of not listening to Acharekar’s (who he still addresses as ‘sir’) advice that he should not play tennis-ball cricket to make quick bucks.
Gurav had to answer to the police up till 1994. By now, his cricketing dream had evaporated and he was left with nothing but a job at New India Assurance (NIA).
Today, Gurav is known in the shanty locality more as a drunkard than anything else. Forget a lost hope, people do not even remember runner-ups and similar is the treatment Gurav gets. While Gurav lives the life of an ordinary mortal, his back broken by the vagaries of fate, Sachin rules as a God worshipped by billions – a classic example of fate’s great game.