“Yeh dekho swimming pool. Ek dum Maldives jaisa hai (See the swimming pool. It’s just like in the Maldives).”
Salman Khan, 22, provides a virtual tour of his posh hotel to his family, who live in a small tent at Mumbai’s Cross Maidan, where his father works as a groundsman. On normal cricketing afternoons, the tent works as a dressing room for cricket teams.
Barring his father Idris, none of his family members knew where Maldives is and why it is famous. But since being roped in by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as a net bowler for the ongoing Indian Premier League season, Salman has been living the high life, even if on a temporary basis.
He says his conversations back home are unusual these days. His father not only asks him about what happened at the nets, but also about the hotel he is stationed in. Whether he met Mahendra Singh Dhoni and what did he tell him.
The iconic hotel at Nariman Point has been a landmark for Mumbaikars and Salman hadn’t seen it from inside, until CSK happened.
Over the years, his father has rolled pitches and seen many boys becoming stars overnight and now the family hopes that Salman can change the fortunes of the family.Salman Khan’s home in Cross maidan.
“One day, I got a call from a Chennai Super Kings official asking me whether I can join as a net bowler for this season. Later, I got to know my name was recommended by (Mumbai player) Tushar Deshpande. I was excited because I will get a chance to learn, otherwise I would be just playing club cricket,” Salman said over phone.
CSK have been the pioneers in helping net bowlers make the transition to becoming IPL players. Two current players of the franchise – Mukesh Choudhary and Prashant Solanki – were net bowlers for them till last season, before being roped in at this year’s mega auction.
Salman hopes the same can happen for him. His father always has one line to end his conversations. “Abu phone karke bolta hai achcha kar, tera acha hoga, toh hamara bhi hoga. Bowling mein khush kar dena (Whenever my father calls, he tells me to do well, so that something good will happen to them in the future. Make everyone happy through your bowling). I only say I will try my best,” Salman, who has represented Mumbai in under-23 and junior cricket, says.
The rays of the floodlights and the loud cheering at the Wankhede Stadium reaches Salman’s home. He has been sending pics of him with Dhoni and other players. Salman did bump into Dhoni and CSK captain Ravindra Jadeja, and asked them about his bowling. It took some time to gain Dhoni’s confidence but, Salman says, at CSK everyone is equal.Salman Khan’s home in Cross maidan.
“I spoke to Mahi bhai and Jadeja. I want to learn from them, these two months might change my life. I asked Mahi bhai about my bowling. He said, ‘Salman, off-spinner ko T20 mein sab maarne hi dekhte hai, so thoda dimag se dalne ka, jyada sochne ka (in T20s, everyone tries to hit the off-spinner, so put some thought behind your bowling). He said he will speak to me after a few games. The franchise is treating us like everyone else. We are getting the same treatment like everyone else. The environment is superb.”
Back at Cross Maidan, Idris is happy that his son has got a big push. In his four decades as a groundsman, he has seen Sachin becoming Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan becoming India’s lethal pace bowler.
“I’m very happy for him. I’m a small man. I just want him to do well in life. In 40 years as a groundsman, I have seen people becoming stars, I just want my son to play good cricket aur apne paon pe khada ho jaye bus (and stand on his own feet),” Idris hopes.