When deals worth crores were signed at the IPL auction, a Rs 20 lakh contract may not seem like much, but it has insured that Ramesh Kumar’s father no longer has to make a job as a cobbler and his mother no longer has to criss-cross villages in Punjab’s Fazilka area selling bangles.
Ramesh, also known as ‘Narine Jalalabad’ in tennis circles, was already a YouTube sensation thanks to his bat-and-ball exploits. His extraordinary narrative has attracted a broader audience after the auction and signed with Kolkata Knight Riders last weekend.
He urged his aged parents to cease working even as a tennis ball ‘nomad,’ but they would “never listen” to him. However, an IPL deal has finally persuaded them that their kid has a future in the game and that they do not need to work as hard.
“They’ve finally agreed to stop working together.” Ramesh, who once hit a 10-ball 50 in a local event, told PTI, “I never wanted them to undertake this work in the first place, but it had to be done out of necessity.”
He also intends to use the IPL funds to help his younger brothers with their education.
Since KKR made a winning bid for him at the auction, Ramesh’s phone has been ringing incessantly, but he remains grounded and focused.
‘Life hasn’t changed yet, paaji, but it will when I play in the IPL.’ As far as I’m concerned, I’ve finally gotten the platform I required,” he stated.
For seven years, the 23-year-old from Jalalabad competed in tennis-ball events across India, but it wasn’t until last year that he tried ‘leather’ ball. Ramesh made an impression at the Punjab Cricket Association’s district-level event, earning him a spot in the Ranji Trophy camp.
Gurkeerat Mann, a seasoned Punjab batter and IPL regular, helped him get to the KKR tryouts in Mumbai, and he owes his career to him.
At the tryouts, KKR assistant coach and former India all-rounder Abhishek Nayar was also impressed of Ramesh’s unusual skill, which led to his signing at his base price.
It’s unclear whether Ramesh, who has never played proper cricket at any level, will be ready for his big break in the IPL, but if T Natarajan can play for India after building a name for himself in tennis-ball cricket, ‘Narine Jalalabadi’ believes he has a shot.
Ramesh fondly recalls the time when he travelled the country to compete in tennis ball contests for Rs 500-1000 per day, a career that also saw him fly for the first time.
“I’m sure you’ve seen my YouTube videos, paaji. I’m a tennis ball player at heart. People recommended me to play with a leather ball because I could turn the ball away and back in. ‘You might make it huge,’ they’d say.
However, I lacked the necessary support to pursue the game professionally. I used to play a little leather ball cricket now and again, but it was mostly tennis ball cricket.
“It started with me performing all throughout Punjab, and when I did, I got calls from other states as well.” I made 500 dollars in a day on occasion, and 1000 dollars on other occasions. It was barely enough to keep the house running and cover my trip expenditures,” he explained.