Chennai: When Ram Singh Yadav, a daily wager from Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur decided to shift to Hosur in Tamil Nadu in search of livelihood, providing cricket coaching for his son Sanjay was a distant dream.
After all these years, when Sanjay is rubbing shoulders with the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan in Kolkata Knight Riders jersey, the pain of all those years of hardship just vanished.
"I never expected to be picked for the IPL – especially being a player in a second Division team in the TNCA League," Sanjay, a left-handed batsman, who also bowls left-arm spin, said.
It was Sanjay's performance for VB Thiruvallur Veerans in the TNPL that earned him a place in the Tamil Nadu T20 squad and subsequently a Rs 10 lakh contract with KKR.
"Watching the big players prepare for the T20 tournament has been huge for me. It is how they train and tune-up is fascinating. I am also learning lot interacting," Sanjay said.
For Sanjay, the comforting factor is presence of Lakshmipathy Balaji as the bowling coach of KKR. Balaji is also associated with the Tamil Nadu state team.
"Bala Sir gives me tips on how to bowl in different match situations and taught me the importance of looking for wickets rather than just containing the batsmen," he said.
But if someone holds a special place in Sanjay's life, it is Future India Cricket Academy Coach Premnath, who taught him the basics of cricket for free.
Sanjay didn't have enough money to pay the monthly fees of the coaching centre and Premnath took him under his wings for free. The coach stood by him in difficult times, which the all-rounder till this day acknowledges.
He got a seat in the prestigious Loyola College on sports quota, where he is currently pursuing his graduation.
Having overcome testing times, the young all-rounder wants to climb the ladder by putting in the hard yards and wants to improve in all departments, especially playing pace bowling.
Sanjay is a huge fan of Indian captain Virat Kohli and off-spinner R Ashwin.
He also wants to learn from premier Bangladeshi all-rounder Shakib Al-Hasan during his stint with KKR.
"He (Shakib) is a bowler, who varies his speeds and is left-handed like me. I hope to learn from him and also West Indian Sunil Narine."