'I have been building the house back home for the past three years. It still doesn't have doors and windows but hopefully I would be able to get the work done now. I will also use the money for the treatment of my ailing mother.'
From working as a labourer on a daily wage of Rs 60 to fetching an Indian Premier League contract worth Rs 20 lakh, Jammu and Kashmir batsman Manzoor Ahmad Dar has covered a distance more awe-inspiring than the 100-metre sixes he is known for.
Considering the hardships he has faced, the IPL contract with Kings XI Punjab is a life-changing moment for the big-hitting Dar, who finally foresees better times for him and his large family living in a nondescript village in Bandipora district.
Many were made overnight millionaires but if there was one happy story emerging for the IPL auction last weekend, it was Dar. The burly batsman, who earned a name for hitting 100 metre sixes, was the last player to be bought by Kings XI Punjab.
"I am really thankful to god for this opportunity, also KXIP and Preity (Zinta) madam. My life has been full of struggle and when I finally found a team (at the IPL Players' Auction), I thought about the time I used to earn Rs 60 in the village as a daily labourer," Dar said from Jammu, where he is preparing for the state team trials for the Vijay Hazare Trophy next month.
Being the only player from Jammu and Kashmir to be picked in the IPL was a big deal not only for his small village but for the entire state.
"I spoke to my mother a short while ago. She told me some 30,000 people came to my house to congratulate. It is really moving to receive such love," he said.
Dar, who is famously known as Pandav in Jammu and Kashmir, is a natural when it comes to hitting big sixes.
For the last few years, he was looking for ways to make money to take care of his younger siblings, four sisters and three brothers, before one day he was told by his local coach to ply his trade in club cricket.
He found instant recognition there but juggling between the night job of a security guard and playing the next morning was not easy.
"But it was the only way I could keep playing. I worked as a night guard from 2008 to 2012 but it was also the time I made my name in club cricket. The aim was to play as many matches as possible because it meant more money. I clearly remember I did not have shoes or cricket gear when I played my first club game," he recalled.
"It was not until 2011 when I started thinking that cricket could be a long-term career option. That was the first time I gave trials for the state team but could only make my domestic debut in 2017," said Dar, who has nine T20s and four List A games since his maiden state appearance in January last year.
He is mainly known as 'Pandav' in cricketing circles but that is not just because of his big-hitting prowess.
"I was in seventh grade and we were playing a zonal kabaddi match. Five points were needed and I raided into the opposition area and dragged three players to my side. Since then they started calling me Pandav. The entire valley knows me by this name only."
Jammu and Kashmir's Parveez Rasool, who has also played for India, went unsold in the auction and Dar was only the second last player to go under the hammer in the two-day event.
He was hopeful of getting a team last year but when Rajasthan Royals called him for trials this time, he became more confident about his chances.
Only two weeks ago, Dar was playing against his hero Yuvraj Singh in a domestic T20 event in Delhi, but never thought they both could be teammates. Yuvraj will also be representing KXIP this season.
"It will be huge to play alongside him. The others in the game whom I look up to are Kapil Dev and MS (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni. I always wanted to hit sixes like Dhoni," he gushed.
Rs 20 lakh may not be a huge amount for modern-day cricketers but for Dar, it is the beginning of a better life.
"I have been building the house back home for the past three years. It still doesn't have doors and windows but hopefully I would be able to get the work done now. I will also use the money for the treatment of my ailing mother," said Dar.
Image: Manzoor Ahmad Dar
Photograph: Manzoor Ahmad Dar/Twitter