Ghaziabad resident Raja Babu Sharma is on a high these days. And why not? What he has achieved is no mean feat. He has been selected to lead the Mumbai cricket team in the forthcoming Indian Disabled Premier League (IDPL). Six teams viz Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi, Rajasthan and Mumbai are set to participate in the IDPL that is being held in December this year.
In 1997, when Raja Babu was about eight years of age, he lost his leg in an accident. But this didn’t deter him from playing cricket. He carried on with his daily practice in the game. “Cricket is my life. And cricket is something that kept me alive and in spirits even after I met with an accident and lost my leg. If it wasn’t for cricket, I would have gone into depression,” he says.
He is all praise for his friends and neighbours in Kanpur (where he was living at that time) who were a constant pillar of support for him. “I belong to a poor family. My father worked with Indian Railways, and he didn’t have much money to spend on my passion. But my friends always pitched in. They used to give me their bat to play,” he says. “One of my friends, Munendra Singh, who is with Indian Army now, has been my greatest support system,” he adds.
In 2007, Raja Babu went for the trials for the Kanpur South Premier League (KSPL). He performed well, but since he was disabled he couldn’t be selected for the team. But he was selected to be the local brand ambassador of the KSPL. “The chairman of the Kanpur Cricket Association, Dr Sanjay Kapoor, encouraged me a lot,” he says.
He entered the disabled cricket only in 2014 when Manthan Trust organized a cricket tournament for disabled in Bijnor. He has so far played 30 matches and represented a number of teams, but is awaiting the IDPL with bated breath.
“Disabled cricket lags far behind in our country. But with IPL taking a lead in holding IDPL, I feel it will start getting the recognition it greatly needs,” he says. “The highest amount of prize money that I have got so far is Rs 11,000 given to me by Raju Sirvastava,” he adds. “A lot needs to be done in this field,” he says.
For his exceptional abilities, Raja Babu is being awarded the Ajaat Shatru Award in the 17th Bihar Samman Samaroh 2017 to be held on August 28. The award is being given to those who have made a name for themselves at the national level sports. The event is being organised by NGO Samarpan in association with Bihar Disabled Sports Academy.
But this is not his first award. His talent has been recognized a number of times before as well.
In 2015 he was given the UP State Award, instituted by the UP Government, for being an exceptional player. The same year, he also got the Best Cricketer award from Gujarat.
An ace batsman, Raja Babu’s highest score so far has been 127.