Prior to May 2017, B.Vikram (15) and C.Shekhar (18) didn’t know each other. However, they shared an identical past. Both of them had dropped out of school and had fractured relationships with their parents. Things had reached a point where their parents had all but given up on them; they didn’t even know where they were most of the time. The pair of them showed no interest in school or work. Instead, they spent all day playing cricket in the narrow streets of Kalyandurg, a town in Anantapur District and used any money they had to bet on the outcomes of their matches.
“Once Vikram dropped out (of school), we were naturally very concerned. We tried to punish him and force him to go to school. But even if he did go to school, he’d leave his books somewhere and run away to play cricket. We gave up on him in the end.” said Vikram’s mother. Coming from the same neighbourhood, Vikram and Shekhar are one of the many such youths in the area. It is perhaps only their genuine passion for Cricket and the inherent talent that has brought them together.
However, a shift occurred since May 2017 in the lives of Vikram and Shekhar, which put their paths together on the road to betterment. Today, they are the stars of the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) Cricket Centre in Kalyandurg. Vikram is a wicketkeeper and batsman while Shekhar is a bowler. Registered for their 10th board exams, they are now focused on their goals and are taking the steps in the right direction to turn their ambition to play professional cricket into reality.
In May 2017, Shekhar and Vikram both arrived at the ASA Cricket Centre in Kalyandurg to attend the annual summer camp. At the camp, working with other motivated children and the coach R.Kumar (Joshi), helped them both realise what they needed to do in order to achieve their potential. Just playing cricket on the streets wasn’t enough.
“When they first arrived, their lack of education was evident. It was difficult for them to understand even basic instructions. Once I learnt about their stories and had a conversation with their parents, I made it a point to help them realise the importance of academics and school”, said Joshi on his first impressions of Shekhar and Vikram.
Both Vikram and Shekhar won awards at the summer camp in 2017 and tried to register for regular coaching sessions at the Centre. However, they were given a firm ‘NO’ from Joshi, as he felt that they needed to go back to school first. They persisted though, coming to training every single day, even if it meant they weren’t involved in practice and had to watch from the sidelines.
Seeing their determination and passion for cricket, they were eventually allowed to join the Centre. But since then, Joshi has taken steps to help them understand that just playing cricket wasn’t going to take them anywhere. They were made aware of the fact that education is vital to any child’s overall growth and development. After further conversations with their parents, both Shekhar and Vikram decided to register for their 10th boards exams.
Having seen many such previous efforts fail, their parents were naturally wary. However, they had seen significant changes in the behaviour of their children since joining the Cricket Centre. Having witnessed the positive impact sports had had on their children first hand, they too agreed to pay the fees for the exams.
“I didn’t understand the value of sport before. But since joining the cricket centre, he has started studying again, listening to me and coming home on time. After seeing the impact sports has had on my son, I’m determined to support him in every way possible,” continued Vikram’s mother.
In terms of cricket, both Vikram and Shekhar have certain goals they are determined to achieve. Joshi firmly believes that both players have what it takes to at least make a career in first-class cricket. However, for now, it is important that they take it one step at a time.
“As their coach, I give them all the support I can to help them improve. I need to be able to guide them in all aspects of their lives so that they can use their talent to become the best cricketers they can be. I give them new targets every year. For now, it is to make the district provisional squads.”, said Joshi.
The relationship between sports and delinquency for socially vulnerable children and youth has been studied extensively. According to the US National Institute of Justice’s Practice theory, sports can provide children with access to four things; An attachment to significant others (coaches or teammates), commitment to conventional activities, belief in society’s values because of the rules and values that sports teaches and finally, less time in which they can potentially fall prey to delinquency. These are all aspects that can be seen in Vikram and Shekhar’s transformation since they joined the ASA Centre in 2017.
It would be naïve to think that Shekhar and Vikram have completely changed their ways and are suddenly very interested in their academic success because of their participation in cricket. But, it is clear to see that they have realised that it is a necessity for them if they want to play professional cricket, and are taking decisive steps towards completing their secondary education.
“I don’t like studying, I’ve never been interested in it. But I have understood that I need to write my exams. Without them, I cannot succeed in Cricket. The coach has helped me a lot in that regard. While I know I want to play cricket, there are other aspects of life like education that are important as well,” said Shekhar, when asked about starting to study again.
Apart from registering for their exams, playing at the ASA Centre has also helped the pair realise the importance of having a supportive social circle to advance their goals. This had led them to stop hanging out with some of their friends from before, who were having a detrimental impact on their lives. Moreover, they now share positive relationships with their parents. They are more focused and determined than ever, and unlike before, they now have an actual plan in place to turn their dreams into reality.