Mantri Ramesh Subramanyam Naidu may look like a normal young man until you notice that his right foot has only one toe and the fingers in his hands are small. But his physique never came in the way of his love for cricket. Especially because, today, the 24-year-old Telugu youngster is part of the maiden Indian cricket team — comprising physically challenged players — and is set to play the T20 World Series in August in England.
For someone who’d started taking the sport seriously only in 2014, this is indeed quite an achievement. “When my name was announced, it was an emotional moment. It took some time for me to come to terms that I am playing for India. But first, it brought back all the tough times and the struggles I’d gone through,” states the leg spinner who can also wield the bat.
Reflecting upon the taunting he had suffered as a child, the 24-year-old says, “I used to be constantly mocked for my disability. It would affect me and leave me feeling depressed, but my father would ignore it all and start playing with me and my brother at home.”
He may have got a taste of cricket at home, but things really started looking up after he joined engineering in IIT Chennai. Mantri began playing for the National Sports Organisation, an initiative by the Government of India to promote the development of athletics and sporting activities with the youth of India, which is present in IIMs and IITs, and to which only the very talented get selected. He then went on to play in the Inter-University games too.
“It all added to my confidence, and I later represented the Tamil Nadu state disability team before playing for south zone,” says Mantri, crediting his parents for his success.
The national call was not far away for someone as tenacious as Mantri. Though he let his physical disabilities cause him grief once, Mantri had started learning to channel his energies towards the other aspects in him. “One of my major strengths is my ability to read the game and plan game strategies,” says Mantri. A quality that got him the skipper’s position for the Tamil Nadu cricket team.
An all-rounder on and off the field, Mantri is an academically brilliant student too. But how does he balance academics with sports? “It was difficult, but I’ve realised that life is about not only achieving a merit in education but also doing what you are passionate about,” explains Mantri, thanking his college and friends for their support.
Undoubtedly, the call to represent the country has been nothing short of an honour for Mantri, but the 24-year-old has not forgotten the several instances when he’d wanted to give up too. “But I wanted to prove that my ability is greater than my disability. We may be physically challenged but we need to me mentally strong to achieve anything,” adds Mantri, who’s currently training in Mumbai with the team....