Barely a decade ago, 23-year-old Pappu Roy barely had enough money for two square meals a day. Today, he has been selected for India C squad for Deodhar Trophy. Cricket is more than just a game for him, it was the thing that kept him away from abject poverty.
Battling hunger, Roy practically lived at the Howrah Union Cricket Club ground in Kolkata. He would bowl for hours in exchange for lunches and snacks. He continued to live like this until he was an adult.
“For every hour I bowled at Howrah Union, the coaches offered me a free thali or juice, that used to satisfy my hunger. Till I was 18, this was my life. Be there from morning to night, keep bowling and earn my meals. This was like work for me. My parents passed away early, there were some family issues (a dispute between his father’s siblings over a plot of ancestral land), so I preferred to be outside, doing what I enjoyed doing.” he told ESPNCricinfo
He had to switch from being a left-arm fast bowler to left-arm spinner after a shoulder niggle. His apprehensions about such a life-changing step was laid to rest by Howrah Union Coach Sujit Saha.
In 2011, Pappu moved to Jajpur, Odisha where he became a grade cricketer and then for the state. It was his friend Amin Iqbal’s father, Khan saab who gave him a roof to live under (as a paying guest).
His mornings were for training, afternoons for matches followed by tennis ball-cricket at night for fun. He would run with his kit-bag for half an hour, his own style of daily warmup.
Pappu also narrated an incident when he bowled to India’s legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar before his international retirement,
“Sachin Tendulkar sir was playing his farewell series. Two days before the first Test, Howrah Union bowlers were called in as net bowlers. I was in Jajpur, but took an overnight bus to reach Kolkata. When I landed up at Eden Gardens, I stood in the spinners queue by mistake. I was told later that the fast-bowling slots had been filled up, and I was the only one in my set who could bowl left-arm spin. I thought, ‘agar bhagwaan ko left-arm spin hi daalna hai, yehi kar denge hum aage (If I have to bowl left-arm spin to god, let me keep doing this going forward too.’)”
Roy has been phenomenal in the limited overs format. He picked up 14 wickets in 8 matches while playing for Odisha in Vijay Hazare Trophy. He bowled at an average of 18.42 and an impressive economy rate of 3.79. He even got wickets of players like Hanuma Vihari and Ricky Bhui.
He is expected to play his debut Deodhar Trophy match on October 24 against India B at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi. If he manages to make a mark, he may attract Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises which will help is career and financial situation.