Tendulkar bowled over by one-arm nets pacer
Harish Kotian was stumped by the grit of Gurudas Raut, a 25-year-old with one arm, who bowled medium pace at the Indian team's nets session in Nagpur.
He was born with a disability, but when it comes to playing cricket he can give any able-bodied player a run for his money.
Everything seemed routine-like as India's cricketers went through the practice session in Nagpur on Tuesday, ahead of the fourth Test against England. But the sight of a young boy, without a left-arm, bowling medium pace to the batsmen caught the attention of onlookers.
Gurudas Raut, who was born without a left arm, was the star performer among the net bowlers in the team's nets session.
Turing out medium pace, not only did he fulfill his dream of bowling to his childhood idol, Sachin Tendulkar, but also twice got the wicket of India opener Gautam Gambhir.
"Gambhir was caught and bowled by me and then he got an outside edge once," Raut told Rediff.com, after the session at the VCA stadium.
But he couldn't hide his delight at getting a chance to bowl to the batting legend.
"I bowled nearly two overs to him and I was so excited to have finally bowled against him. Ever since I started playing cricket as a young kid, I always dreamed about bowling to him, so today I am the happiest person in the world having achieved the dream," he declared.
Image: Gurudas Raut
'Tendulkar told me never lose confidence and keep working hard on my game'
Even Tendulkar was amazed by the determination that has taken Raut so far despite the handicap.
"Sachin Tendulkar praised me; he told me that I am a good bowler and I bowled well to him. He told me to never lose confidence and keep working hard on my game."
Raut also recalled having bowled Mahendra Singh Dhoni last year with an in-swinger during the practice sessions at the 2011 World Cup.
"Dhoni tried to play across the line on the leg side, but missed and was bowled," he recalled, adding it is the highlight of his cricketing career so far.
He even had a chat with India pacer Ishant Sharma, who gave him a few tips on gripping the ball and moving it.
Image: Gurudas Raut at the net session
'My love and passion for the sport kept me going'
Despite being born with a disability, Raut never lost hope. He said it was the dream of playing cricket for India that motivated him right from his childhood days.
"At the start, when I decided to take up the sport, everyone tried to stop me. They told me that I cannot make it big in cricket or any other sport because of my disability and I should concentrate on studies and look for another career.
"But my love and passion for the sport kept me going. I used to tell myself that no matter what happens I want to become a cricketer and play for my country," he added.
And one of the biggest moments of his life came when he wore the India cap for the first time in June this year, as he led the Indian physically challenged team to Pakistan for a limited-overs' series.
Now 25 years of age, Raut was captain of the team that toured Pakistan, where they thrashed their neighbours 3-0 in the ODIs and also won the one-off Twenty20 match.
"Playing for India was like a dream come true. And I remember when I wore the India cap for the first time it felt really special. I was delighted to have contributed in some way to make my country proud," he said.
He also recollected how India's young batsman Suresh Raina had given him a pep talk which motivated him to continue giving his best.
"I remember meeting Suresh Raina once and he told me then, 'playing for India is a big thing, whether you played in disabled cricket or in normal cricket. Not everyone gets a chance to play for the country, but only a few and I congratulate you on your achievement'."
Image: Gurudas Raut with M S Dhoni
'I hope to inspire the handicapped kids to follow their dreams and achieve them'
To those watching Raut at the VCA stadium, there was no doubting his talent.
"I started following cricket while growing up because everywhere people used to watch cricket and play cricket, so I also started enjoying watching the game. I used to get impatient as to when I would start playing cricket and play like all these top players.
"My first step in cricket was playing gully cricket in my village. I used to bat with one hand and stories of me playing with one hand spread around the village. A lot of people used to wonder how a guy with just one hand could bat and they used to come to the ground in large numbers to see how I could do it.
"The fact that I was doing well against normal boys at that time boosted my confidence that I could make a mark in the sport," he said.
Pursuing his dream was certainly not easy. He had to work hard on his fitness and strength to make up for the handicap.
"I work a lot of my fitness and building my body strength. I run everyday, like around 10 rounds of the cricket ground, and do the normal stretching exercises, and I swim 1500 metres daily to build my stamina," he informed, adding he hopes his success can spur other handicap children.
"My message to all handicap children is that they should try and stand on their own feet and never make someone feel pity on you.
"Everyone has some special talent in them and you should work hard to achieve your dreams. I hope to inspire the handicapped kids to follow their dreams and achieve them. I am sure we will see someone more successful than me."
Image: Gurudas Raut