Age is no barrier, neither is being differently abled. It’s the limitation that we put on our minds that acts as a hindrance to achieve our goals. No greater example than Baba Sidhaye, also known as Yashwant Prabhakar, who was the first deaf and mute cricketer to have taken the field.
To add to his accolades of playing 51 first-class matches, where he scored 1862 runs, Sidhaye was no mug with the ball in hand. He was a pretty handy legspinner and some of his feats would put a lot of first-class cricketers to shame. He had a lot of partnerships with legendary Bapu Nadkarni and the one that stands out was the 238-runs stand for the 4th wicket against Baroda at Nashik, where Sidhaye blossomed with a century.
Known as the ‘Panther’ for his brilliance in the field, Sidhaye died on November 24, 2002, due to a prolonged illness and it has been more than a decade that his only son Pravin Sidhaye is fighting for justice in terms of recognition and honours that the former cricketer deserves.
Speaking exclusively to CricketNext, Pravin accussed Bollywood Director Nagesh Kukunoor of stealing the plot for his movie Iqbal, which, according to Pravin, is the story of his father, but there was no credit given to him.
“My father was the first deaf and mute cricketer to achieve this glory of having three world records to his name and it was authenticated by the Limca book of records. Not a single BCCI cricketer has these records and the movie Iqbal is completely based on my father’s life.
“He has shown the way to the world that don’t get demoralised due to being disabled and you can still achieve the No. 1 spot in sports and make it a career option," Sidhaye’s son went on to add.
“The last interview of Baba Sidhaye was published in Indian Express (Pune Edition) on February 9, 2000. The main story is of a deaf and dumb, small-town boy residing in Pune, who dreams to play cricket for his national team and he fulfilled his dream in 1949. Iqbal is based on this two-line true story," Pravin elaborated further on his allegations against Kukunoor.
Relating more on the similarity of the story, Sidhaye’s only son said, “He lifted this idea from my father’s life and Supreme Court has recently given a verdict on this that nobody can lift the idea without permission. The biopics on Mary Kom and Milkha Singh came and they gave proper recognition, but Nagesh Kukunoor is a repeat offender. See his movies Door or Mod - both are based on foreign films or Indian films."
Showing his anguish over the entire fiasco, Pravin also went on to state, “If you are making a movie, you should inquire with BCCI and find out if there is any deaf and dumb player in their records or not because BCCI is having the records from 1931 onwards. Secondly, the grave mistake Mr. Kukunoor made is by giving a false disclaimer before the film that there is no such dead or alive person available in the world. That’s not true because Baba Sidhaye was very much there from 1931 to 2002.
“Lastly, under IPC, if a thief steals gold and sells it to a goldsmith and is caught by police, the thief and the goldsmith, both are punishable. So Mukta Arts and Subhash Ghai should have taken care that this is not a stolen story of anybody."
Speaking about his father’s world record, Pravin said, “One of the world record is approved by Limca Book of Records as a National Record, which proves my claim that Baba Sidhaye is the first and only Deaf Mute cricket player in the world. It is the duty of Government Of India, Government of Maharashtra and BCCI to register these 3 unique world records of Baba Sidhaye in their books with immediate effect or to show us any other deaf-mute player in world cricket, who has done better than Baba Sidhaye. It is a fact now that there is not a single by-birth deaf-mute cricketer in the world and I can submit Court Affidavit to this regard."
Talking about the recognitions his father has been deprived off, Pravin went on to explain further by adding," Since Baba Sidhaye is the first and only by-birth deaf- mute cricket player in the world, he must be felicitated with one highest award each from Government Of India, Government of Maharashtra and BCCI.
The Government of India is the sanctioning authority and BCCI or respective State Government is the recommending authority for Arjuna Award. They have done a blunder in the past. Arjuna award should have definitely by now be bestowed upon Baba Sidhaye under handicapped category. After all he played 51 first-class matches for Maharashtra, Bombay and Indian Railways in the Ranji Trophy and West Zone and North Zone in the Duleep Trophy, including five matches against Test teams of West Indies, Australia, England, New Zealand and Ceylon from 1949 to 1966.
But inspite of this and without verification, they gave this Award to Anjan Bhattacharya of Bihar/Jharkhand who played only 13 Ranji matches for his state team. We don’t wish that his award be recovered, but Arjuna Award may please also be given to the real recipient Baba Sidhaye and the truth must prevail."
Showing his disappointment with BCCI, he exclaimed," Discrimination done by BCCI. Rules say that if a player has played five Ranji Trophy matches and it is before 1957, then he is eligible for medical benovolent scheme. Then BCCI changed this rule to 25 Ranji matches for pension scheme. BCCI pays monthly pension to a) Test player, b) to widows of Test players, c) to Ranji players who have played 25 matches, but not to widows of a Ranji player. Baba played 51 Ranji matches.
“For one-time payment, the BCCI rules changed to 75 Ranji matches. BCCI has crores of rupees for cheer girls & for its officials, who have not held a bat in their life time but it doesn’t have money for ex-players like Baba who have given their everything to cricket, not for years but some 5-6 decades," Pravin rued.
To add to his achievements, Sidhaye was also the coach of Bombay Cricket Association and coach of Test star Balwinder Singh Sandhu who was instrumental in winning the World cup for India in 1983. He had also coached more than 50 cricketers and prepared them to achieve Duleep Trophy and/or Ranji Trophy caps for Bombay, Maharashtra and various other states.
He had given 57 years to grass root level cricket in various capacities such as a player, vice captain, captain, coach, administrator, etc. He had also coached Maharashtra Cricket Association for the disabled for five years without any remuneration and three of his students were selected to play for India handicapped team against England in the year 2002.
Just on facts it would be hard to find a single handicapped deaf and dumb by-birth person in the world from India who has done better in all fields than Baba Sidhaye.
Pravin went on to conclude with an appeal. “I request you on humanitarian grounds on this matter and deliver justice. I also indemnify that I have submitted the truth and only the truth as per best knowledge available to me, otherwise I am ready to be hanged anywhere in India if you get a single Indian in this world who is deaf and dumb and who has done better than Baba Sidhaye."