Great is the one who conquers his difficulties and sticks to his love, despite of all the negative circumstances. There have been many cricketers who have gone beyond their economic and situational barriers and have shone as stars, like Shoaib Akhtar, Irfan and Yusuf Pathan of India. World knows and loves them, as by their qualities they have achieved many feats. But there is one name who, despite his abilities and achievements in first class cricket, is a name rarely known.
Yashwant Prabhakar, alias Baba Sidhaye, according to Limca book of world records is the only cricketer to be impaired of hearing and speaking abilities by birth who played first class cricket, and the first ever person to do so with such special abilities. To his credit, he has played as many as 51 first-class matches scoring a total of 1862 runs. Not only a reliable batsman, but a good leg-spinner with a mentionable record with the ball Baba Sidhaye could make any so-called accomplished first class cricketer sweat with shame. Amongst his partnerships with remarkable cricketers of his time, the one of 238 runs for the 4th wicket with Bapu Nadkarni is one cherrishable innings. The game was played against Baroda at Nashik and Yashwant scored a marvellous century.
Panther, as Sidhaye was named by his followers due to his awesome on field skills, left the material world in the year 2002, the reason being physical illness.
Neither during his playing days nor after he passed away did Sidhaye get the acknowledgement that he could claim for. His son Pravin is still fighting for the justice though, claiming that the Nagesh Kukunoor directorial ‘Iqbal’ is actually a true story and that of his father, which was not accredited.
“My father was the first deaf and mute cricketer to achieve this glory of having three world records to his name and it was authenticated by the Limca book of records. Not a single BCCI cricketer has these records and the movie Iqbal is completely based on my father’s life.He has shown the way to the world that don’t get demoralised due to being disabled and you can still achieve the No. 1 spot in sports and make it a career option” Pravin stated.
During his career, he played for Maharashtra, Bombay and Indian Railways in the Ranji Trophy and West Zone and North Zone in the Duleep Trophy, including five matches against Test teams of West Indies, Australia, England, New Zealand and Ceylon from 1949 to 1966. To add to this, he was also the coach of Bombay Cricket Association and coach of Test star Balwinder Singh Sandhu who was instrumental in winning the World cup for India in 1983 if the other players under his training is to be ignored. But due to the comples rules of BCCI, the family of Sidhaye is not even able to get pension as of now.
The article is sincerely done to draw the attention of mass and the people concerned to an issue which must be given importance in favor of a player who devoted 57 years of his career for the betterment of cricket in the grass-root level.