Domestic cricketers step forward with community service during coronavirus pandemic

While elite athletes in India have been contributing to various relief funds set up to combat the coronavirus outbreak, several domestic cricketers have gone out of their way to do their bit.

Sheldon Jackson offers eatables to homeless in Bhavnagar.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

While elite athletes in India have been contributing to various relief funds set up to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, several domestic cricketers have gone out of their way to do their bit.

While Saurashtra veteran Sheldon Jackson has been offering homeless daily wagers in his hometown of Bhavnagar packed food and water every day for the last week, a group of Maharashtra cricketers led by Ranji Trophy regulars Naushad Shaikh and Nikit Dhumal have started a crowdfunding initiative to take care of the families of groundsmen at the Nehru Stadium in Pune.

According to Jackson, one of the architects of Saurashtra’s maiden Ranji Trophy title in March, the plight of the homeless who have been stranded in the middle of nowhere drove him to do something that he refers to as “nothing special.”

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“We have a tradition in the family that whenever I do well on the field, we feed stray animals – dogs and cattle – for a few days. So when I came back to Bhavnagar after the final, we were doing the same,” Jackson told Sportstar.

“Once my stay was extended after the Irani Cup was postponed and that was followed by the lockdown, we could sense the helplessness of these needy people, who often congregate at the street close to our home to get their daily-wage jobs,” he said.

“It’s been an overwhelming experience, honestly. Every day I see many of those have tears in their eyes as they admit they haven’t eaten anything for two or three days. The government is doing the best it can, but in our country, it’s so difficult to reach out to everyone,” Jackson said.

“Most of these people don’t even know anything about the pandemic. All they know is there is some bimari (disease). I am just doing my little bit to offer them a snack and some water or juice.”

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Crowdfunding exercise

Meanwhile, a group of cricketers in Pune has been trying to create a corpus for the families of groundsmen at the Nehru Stadium. Even though the stadium in the heart of the city no longer hosts top-flight games, it remains is a hub for budding cricketers and is home to the Club of Maharashtra, one of the oldest cricket clubs in the city.

“Some of us friends were following the migration that followed the lockdown and thought of the groundsmen at the club, most of whom are migrants,” said Shaikh, who captained Maharashtra in the first half of the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season. “Then we thought of not only contributing whatever little we could, but also to reach out to the cricket fraternity at large to help the groundsmen and their families.”

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Having devised the title ‘The Gamechangers Relief Fund’ for the initiative, Shaikh and Dhumal have reached out to former and present cricketers through social media. “We have set a window of one week for ourselves to get donations, starting Sunday. And the response has been unexpected,” Shaikh said.

“The support has been pouring in not just from Maharashtra, but even from cricketers from other states where we play regularly. After passing on whatever we can to the groundsmen’s families, we shall aim to serve other sections of the society as well,” Shaikh said.

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