Super Shafeek to the rescue

The streets are where majority of the great sports players have been groomed. There are no training grounds like the streets, where you could play with your mates day and night, week in and week out. In India, cricket has been the main sport since its first World Cup triumph in 1983. Kapil Dev and Co. taught every child how to dream of playing for Team India. In 1989, Sachin Tendulkar carried forward the legacy of all his predecessors. Kids played cricket on the streets with a dream of playing for the men in blue for one day. The streets became their Eden Gardens, Wankhedes and Chepauks. 

The street is also where Shafeek Urumancheri, a Malappuram boy, started playing cricket. Like all the other kids, he followed cricketing stars and tried to play like them. But in sports, some get chosen and some don’t. Like 80 per cent of Indian children, Shafeek too had to choose his studies over his passion for sports. He aimed for a professional degree rather than have his name on a cricket, football or hockey jersey. After completing his graduation, he flew to London and did his MBA. But when he started working in a retail company called tkmaxx as its store manager at the Weymouth branch, things started to go his way. Now with a Master’s degree in Business Management, and a job at a reputed company, he plays for a county cricket team in Dorset!

“As part of my job, I have been supporting quite a few stores and they sent me to Weymouth tkmaxx in February, 2017. During a conversation with my colleagues, I shared my interest in cricket and through them, I had an opportunity to play a friendly game in Dorchester, where I met my captain. I didn't particularly have a good game on that cold day but I took a couple of wickets, wherein I had good spin. They chose me to be a part of the team as a leg spinner. And ever since, I've been a regular team member,” Shafeek says, on how he ended up playing for the Weymouth Cricket Club. Though he got into the team as a spinner, he is a decent batsman too. Shafeek has also played some decisive knocks for the team in the past.

When Weymouth beat Witchampton in a second-tier county cricket match in Dorset, local English newspapers, including Dorset Echo, hailed him and gave him much credit. After his cameo against Witchampton, Dorset Echo even named him ‘Super Shafeek’. In the game, Shafeek shined and Weymouth held their nerve to take a seventh successive victory in a compelling finale with County Division Two title rivals Witchampton. Needing 31 runs from the final four overs with two wickets in hand, Shafeek was Weymouth’s hero, smashing an unbeaten 36 not out as the Seasiders won with a ball to spare. His captain Mitchell highlighted the contribution made by Weymouth’s match-winner Shafeek. “His temperament and his control when he bats are great. He’s never flustered and he’s always got a smile on his face, which is great to see. It was a super knock,” says Mitchell. 

“Obviously, it’s totally different to play on the side of a house or road in Malappuram. Playing in whites with a proper pitch gives you great confidence and unfortunately, we don’t have such good infrastructure. My teammates, the majority of whom are English, are always supportive of me. I have built a friends network around them,” says Shafeek, about his experience of playing in England. “It’s overwhelming. I haven't played the way we play back home. I always want my team to win here so I try to contribute in every aspect of the game,” he adds. One of the trickiest moments before every Indian sports fan in England is when England plays India. When asked about that, he says, “I love watching the Indian cricket team. I have been watching most of the games. I am always with them, in good times and in bad. Ever since I live here, whenever India plays against them, I find I’m more desperate for India to win.” Apart from cricket, he is a football lover. A Chelsea fan, he believes the blues would bring the glory back to Stamford Bridge.

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