Iqbal Abdulla was only 17 when he migrated to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh with the sole ambition of making it big in cricket. When the Azamgarh-lad first arrived at Azad Maidan, he was astonished to see hordes of cricketers slogging it out for recognition. Abdulla took it as a challenge and aimed to be "different". Four years of hard work finally seem to be paying off for Abdulla ? not just on the field, but also off it.
The decision to remain with the Kolkata Knight Riders despite being a benchwarmer in the last three seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL) paid rich dividends for the 21-year-old left-arm spinner, who bagged the Rising Star award in the recently-concluded fourth edition of the IPL. "It was a very important decision (to stay back). I had spoken to our coach Dav (Whatmore) and he assured me that I would get more chances to play this time.
"In the last three years I got to play very few matches. I was hungry to perform. I was looking for an opportunity. The captain and coach showed tremendous faith in me and that boosted my confidence," Abdulla, who won two man of the match awards in IPL- IV,Â tells MiD DAY in a chat at his one-BHK residence in Kalina.
While pundits have criticised the IPL for showering excess money on cricketers, Abdulla has used his earnings wisely. He recently bought a "bigger" house for himself in Santacruz East. "More than me, my parents are happy. I am happy to see them happy," he says.
"It's because of my parents prayers that I could buy this house. When I started out, for around three years I was unable to bring my parents here as I was struggling with accommodation. I'm happy that they can come at will now," says Abdulla, who used to live in a cramped one-room kitchen flat with his first coach Naushad Khan when he came from his hometown.
"I was living on rent for sometime in Mankhurd. I was determined to buy my own house in Mumbai. After winning the U-19 World Cup, I bought a small house. Playing in the Ranji Trophy and IPL, I have managed to buy a bigger house," he says.
Today, Abdulla may not have to strive for any luxury. He gets the best diet and facilities to help him excel in his game. But he does not fail to recall the tough days when, at times he slept without a full meal or took to the field barefoot.
"I cannot forget the Rs 50,000 I received as charity from a trust to help me purchase my first cricket kit. Many times I have slept without a proper meal as I had to save the money for other expenses. Sometimes, I played without shoes. So, now even though I have these luxuries, I always recall my hard days and thank the Almighty for his blessings," an emotional Abdulla says before concluding, "One thing's for sure... Upar wale ke ghar der hain, andher nahi. (Better late then never)."