Kerala charms cricket in Gulf
Three years ago, when G. P. Unnkrishnan left his home in Paravur for a job in Muscat, he was clueless about how the many years of his cricketing experience here will shape his destiny in the oases of the Gulf nation. Now, for him, there is no looking back.
Unni met his employer while he was tapping on the tennis ball with his friends on a roadside, and the offer he received was something that came out of the blue. His package included playing for the company in the up and coming cricket league in Muscat.
Since then, Unni has been playing alongside other Indians and Pakistanis, earning a handsome sum. The fairy-tale turnaround in his life has benefited scores of Malayali cricketers who followed his footsteps to the sultanate. “The cricket I played in Kerala has helped me have a better life in Oman.
In the last couple of years, several youngsters have come to Muscat and are playing cricket officially for their employers,” said Unni.
Arun Paulose, M. M. Shinto, Shiju V. S. and Ramu are among the promising cricketers from Kerala who followed Unni to Muscat. They play in 20-20 and 50 over tournaments that are gaining popularity there.
“I never imagined that cricket could find us employment outside the state. Even Omanis are coming into cricket these days and it is a growing sport, which has opened a welcoming window for Indians,” says Unni.
Oman also has a national cricket team affiliated to the International Cricket Council and its captain is an Indian, Hemal Mehta, whose father is a Gujarati and mother a Keralite from Kozhikode.
Unni says the several boys who joined him in Muscat were good cricketers back home, men who were representing their districts and even the state teams. “But, in India, it takes years of hardship and some luck for one to get a break because of the level of competition,” said Unni.
While Oman is emerging as a haven for job-aspiring cricketers from Kerala and other Indian states, cricket is already a high- intensity sport in Dubai. There, the KPL comprises eight teams named after the districts in Kerala such as Alleppy Rippels, Kannur Veerans, Trissur Dynamites, Wayanad Highlanders, Kasargod Leopards, Malappuram Knights, Trivandrum Royals and Calicut Zamorins.
As the younger generation spends their happy lives playing abroad, lakhs of Malayalis who underwent years of hardships in oil and construction companies in the Gulf over decades should be feeling better.
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