A stirring story of a die-hard fan

Love for cricket : Bengaluru's Naidu has been a loyal supporter of Karnataka

A stirring story of a die-hard fan

Sporting just a ponytail on an otherwise clean-shaven head and body painted in Tri-colour, the flag-waving Sudhir Chaudhary is the most recognisable of Indian cricket team’s fans. Not much, however, is known about Suhas Naidu, a die-hard fan of the Karnataka cricket team that he loves and travels across the length and breadth of the country to support it.

Unlike in the distant past, Ranji Trophy matches aren’t crowd pullers and often in the largely unoccupied stands in faraway places like Guwahati and Mohali where domestic cricket generates little interest, Naidu is the lone but loud voice, egging on Karnataka players to give their best. And this is precisely the reason why he is liked by even the players from the opposition camp.

“The Indian cricket team doesn’t excite me,” he admits. “I am happy for Karnataka players who make it to the Indian team but Karnataka team will always remain my only love.”

If he is noisy when the team is on top, he gets even more vociferous whenever the chips are down. With Karnataka bowlers struggling to dislodge the Assam batsmen on the second day here, Naidu’s constant screams prompted a few local fans in attendance to get behind their team. While it appeared to be all in fun here, he has gotten into trouble with the supporters of rival teams in the past, most notably in Mumbai last year when he was followed and roughed up near his hotel by local team’s fans after the match.

“In most of the places that I have gone, I have made good local friends and I still keep in touch with them,” he says, shrugging off the Mumbai incident.

A call attender with a real estate firm in Bengaluru, Naidu takes trains and buses to places where Karnataka will be playing. His father, also a big fan of cricket, partly helps him with his finances while the rest he makes up with contributions from members of the Karnataka team, including the support staff, and his own meagre earnings.

In order to reach on the first day of the match against Assam, the 22-year-old made a train journey in the general compartment for close to 65 hours. With little sleep and having survived on just one meal (bread and omelette) a day, he straightaway came to the stadium after reaching the station here.

The self-appointed president of Rahul Dravid fans’ association in Bengaluru’s Sriramapura, Naidu’s interest in cricket was fuelled by his father Suresh who once famously ran across the Chinnaswamy ground to greet Dravid after he had scored a century against Tamil Nadu in a Ranji Trophy match in 1993-94 and those pictures were published in local newspapers.

All the members in the Karnataka camp, from skipper Vinay Kumar to a junior in the support staff, are quite fond of Naidu. They look out for him in the stands during away matches, help him in whatever capacity they can and often part with their gears.

“I got an autographed T-shirt from Rahul when he scored a triple ton (against Uttar Pradesh in Bengaluru last season), Vinay presented me with his KKR batting gloves and a track pant and Shreyas Gopal gave a pair of gloves… What makes me happier though is when players like Vinay and Robin Uthappa stop by to greet and wish me whenever they spot me,” he says.

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