Just over three years ago, a sturdy six-footer from Bangalore fired the imagination of the country with a sensational Ranji Trophy debut here against Uttar Pradesh. Abhimanyu Mithun scalped 11 wickets then, including a hat-trick, to script Karnataka’s crushing win over the hosts.
In a happy coincidence, Hosagavi Sivalingaiah Sharath made a memorable Ranji debut on Saturday at the same Victoria Park ground against the same opponents, bagging a five-wicket haul (5/60) that left Karnataka with a slight edge on the opening day. Incidentally, Sharath is playing this match only because Mithun is indisposed due to a back strain. Talk of grabbing the opportunity.
Sharath’s rise to prominence from a humble background is a poignant story. An average village kid growing up at Dodda Hosagavi in Mandya district and with a fascination for kabaddi, he caught the attention of cricket coach Mahadeva in Mandya while bowling with a tennis ball. This was to change his destiny. While his single-minded dedication towards the game is certainly paying off, the sacrifices of his father who dabbles between agriculture in his native place and driving an auto-rickshaw in Bangalore to meet the increasing expenses of his two sons who are still students—Sharath and his older brother Sagar—have played a key role in shaping the cricketer’s promising career.
“I couldn’t have taken care of my family with the limited income I was earning from agriculture,” Sivalingaiah told Deccan Herald. “After both my sons moved to Bangalore, one to study and the other to pursue cricket, I was forced to drive auto to earn more money. I spend 15 days a month in Bangalore driving my auto and another 15 taking care of my land,” said Sivalingaiah.
Despite his financial hardships, never did Sivalingaiah discourage his son from indulging in his passion. “Why should I? He (Sharath) had promised me that he would not sacrifice his studies and I trusted him. Both Sharath and I had thought he would play for the State in a couple of years but I never knew the opportunity would come so soon. And to do so well in his first match. I am just happy that the struggles we have gone through aren’t going waste.”
Sharath, a well-built lad standing over six feet, himself had gone through many a struggle to reach this level. While training in Mandya with the Vidyaranya Cricket Club, he would invariably miss the 6:45 pm bus, the last one to his village, and would walk the 5 km distance in near darkness.
He followed this routine for nearly two years before shifting his base to Bangalore. In the lilting Mandya Kannada accent, the right-arm quick reels out all this information with an innocent smile and without a trace of pain.
“I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to my career,” he noted. Hopefully it’s just the beginning of bigger things to come.