Updated: Sep 30, 2020
“Kabhi ek time tha, jab cricketer banne ki bhi ichha thi”.
Cricket was my first love. The sport was all I knew and all that mattered to me. I very soon represented my district, Korba, as their captain. Eventually, I even got selected for Chattisgarh’s state team. I could’ve gone ahead and played states, but my father wanted me to crack IIT first. And so went the rest of my school days, spent days on end just studying.
After coming to IIT, I immersed myself in sports without looking at anything else. I was the fastest runner among all the freshers and joined the athletics team in a fervour. My eyes were on making it to Inter IIT and athletics showed me the way. You had to be exceptional to be in the cricket team anyway. At least that was what I thought until the cricket coach spotted me and I became part of the cricket team as well. The burden of managing two sports was exhausting. My family wanted me to keep my grades as a top priority. And so, I decided to quit athletics.
My first Inter IIT came soon after that, and it was a blur of memories. Although I was ecstatic to be there, I never made it to the playing eleven. Our team lost the finals, and it struck me hard. Around the same time, Girnar also lost the GC by a few points. I was a faccha, yes, but somehow it became vital for me to convert these defeats. I had to be good enough to lead my team to victory and not just sit on the bench.
The following year, I worked hard to make tournaments like the IITPL successful. This led to our cricket team winning the inter IIT gold, and I was given more responsibilities in my team and in BSA; my self-confidence soared. I had finally found my place.
When Inter Hostels came around again, Girnar was on fire. It was almost set in stone that we were to be the winning team. I was playing in the cricket, hockey and football teams and all were in the semi-finals. Celebration ensued, I was sure my goal was reached, but some unexpected losses later, we finished third. I skipped the BHM night altogether, my dream was yet to materialize.
Cricket had given me a chance to shine, a chance to play amidst a crowd of anti cheering and give my best ever performances, but it also had bitter defeats in store for me.
After the tournament season ended, elections started. I had planned on going for the Sports Secretary, but I never knew my closest friend would be up against me. Although negotiations went underway, I was adamant about the title. I won, and I lost. The post was mine, but the friendships were the sacrifice. I never saw it coming, but my ambitions cost my hostel to crash down to the 10th position in the inter hostels that year. All my plans for clinching the trophy just seemed like big talk now. I was devastated.
The Inter IIT that year was no different, heavy rains meant 10 over games, and our team had some tough decisions to make. I was cut from the playing 11. Even as the vice-captain, I couldn’t step into the field. The team still won gold, and IIT Delhi took home the overall championship after decades.
After 2 years of my team pushing me to go for General Secretary of BSA, the poltu-season of 2019 came, and I was revving up again. I wanted to clear UPSC and going for the post was a career-changing decision. If I were to be, my studying would definitely be sidelined. The burns from last year still seared, but the confidence I got from my team made me take a leap of faith again.
As it turned out, the whole period was one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever faced. Near the end, I got to a point where nothing else mattered, I lost my purpose, I just wanted to win. I wanted to win and put the rumours against my team and me to rest.
When it was all over, I felt more isolated than I ever had. I realized that all I had done so far in life was to give myself to the sport. I had wanted to make a name for myself at IIT, and cricket was the sole thing I focussed on. I had no friends outside of it. I stayed in my room studying after long hours in the field and never took part in other things.
After the event, I inevitably distanced myself from cricket and from BSA. My coach wanted me to become the captain, but I just did not feel like it. Our performance as a team seemed to deteriorate at that point. I had played with them for three years, and we were a family in ourselves. I realized I wasn’t doing justice to them, especially my juniors who looked up to me. I slowly started devoting more of my time to cricket.
At my last Inter IIT, I was offered the position of the contingent leader. My intention for becoming the General Secretary had never been for a POR, it had meant much more for me to lead the contingent and I am glad I got to do that. People thought I would alienate myself from sports, and for a while, I had. But I came back for the game and for my final inter IIT gold which our team won last year.
My UPSC planning resulted in me being in my last semester of college with zero credits to complete. It was time for the final rung in the ladder. Inter hostels rolled around. Girnar was behind the point tally from the very start, but I kept my own score tally and continued playing. Very soon most of our teams entered the semi-finals. I played the cricket finals and Girnar’s team which was once considered the worse cricket team among all the hostels climbed up on top. There was only one possibility of us winning on my score tally. It would be when Girnar wins all its remaining matches, and our competitor loses all theirs. Like clockwork, everything else fell into place. At the end that one possibility came true. The GC was finally ours. ~ Adarsh Sahu
Interviewed by Maria Sandalwala