Mumbai: Company sacks disabled cricketer who brought honour to India
Kailash Ghanekar’s passion for cricket shows, and not just in his words but also in his actions. Such is the Nallasopara resident’s zeal for the game that he chose stay back in Delhi to represent India at a recent international tournament, rather than return to Mumbai to work.
Ghanekar (30) is 55 per cent physically disabled and suffers from a defect in his left leg, which restricts his movement. Pics/Nimesh Dave
The 30-year-old had gone to the Capital to play for India in the Asia Cup, a tournament for the physically challenged that included Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Ghanekar is 55 per cent physically disabled and suffers from a defect in his left leg, which restricts his movement.
Ghanekar has scored nearly 600 runs in his cricketing career
The batsman took leave from CD Equisearch Private Limited, a stock broking firm where he worked, to participate in the matches. However, the competition had to be extended by 3-4 days, since the players from Afghanistan and Pakistan faced visa issues. Ghanekar, in turn, asked his employer to extend his leave, but they refused to accommodate his request.
A triumphant Kailash Ghanekar with the Asia Cup trophy
Ghanekar was faced with a tough choice that affected his livelihood. The troubled man called his father. “You play for the country; we will find you another job when you return,” his father spurred him on. And Ghanekar did so.
India went on to defeat Afghanistan in the finals played on February 13. Afghanistan put up a total of 134 runs in 20 overs, and India chased it with four overs to spare, with Ghanekar contributing 14 runs.
The Nallasopara resident began playing cricket at the age of five. Always a fountain of positivity, he credits his friends for supporting him right from childhood. “I used to play with the regular kids. They would take me for tournaments and I played there.
They never let me feel I was different. I played many tournaments with them before I started practising at Shivaji Park in 2006,” he recalled. From playing in local competitions, he moved on to playing in state-level tournaments. Soon, he rose to the international level and went to Sri Lanka in December last year to represent India.
In February this year, Asia Cup happened. The batsman has amassed nearly 600 runs in his career, but cricket has also cost him his job. However, he holds no grudge toward his employer.
‘Don’t blame them’
“I cannot complain about my earlier employer because they always have been kind to me. They always gave me leave, but this time I had to extend my leave all of a sudden and the office couldn’t accommodate it. I cannot blame them as they had given me full liberty to play cricket.
I really wanted to play this time, and, hence, stayed back in Delhi and played the finals. Playing cricket has been always my dream and I couldn’t let any handicap stop me from achieving it,” said Ghanekar. His father, a salesman, makes R300-400 a day and is currently the sole breadwinner of the family of four.
Ajit Wadekar, former Indian captain, helps physically challenged cricketers across the country and knows of Ghanekar. He told mid-day, “Ghanekar is a good batsman. But the government needs to take some firm decisions on rehabilitating sportspersons who are physically challenged.
There are times when these physically challenged cricketers have actually played better than our regular cricketers. I will be meeting the sports minister and even the prime minister to discuss the difficulties faced by physically challenged sportsmen. I will ask him to do the needful. I hope he (Ghanekar) finds something.”
The 30-year-old is busy hunting for jobs and attending interviews. Ghanekar has high hopes of making it through to one or two companies. And hopefully back to playing cricket but for no loss.
His career highlights
Total runs: 600
International tournaments: 2
Total international runs: 76
Career best score: 48 (against Sri Lanka in December)
Advocate Gopal Hegde, who practices corporate law, said all disabled employees are usually protected under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. “The organisation in this case should have called in for a disciplinary enquiry against the said employee, and prima facie, if they would have found some serious lapses during the enquiry, only then should a notice of termination of service have been given to the employee. In this particular case, the company was a bit harsh and the employee reserves his right to challenge the same in the court,” said Hegde.
Ajit Wadekar, former India captain
Ghanekar is a good batsman. But the government needs to take some firm decisions on rehabilitating sportspersons who are physically challenged. There are times when these physically challenged cricketers have actually played better than our regular cricketers.
The other side
Minesh Patel, the head of Ghanekar’s department in CD Equisearch Private Limited, said, “Being a stock broking firm, we cannot leave our terminals even for few minutes. Ghanekar and the firm mutually decided that he needed to take a final call (between the job and cricket).
We cannot afford to be away from the terminal for long, as investors’ money is with us and being away for long periods bothers the client. We did give him a lot of time, but extending his leave wasn’t feasible. It was mutually decided that Ghanekar would leave as he wanted to play cricket.”