The selection process for Kerala's biggest sports award has been set in motion. The Manorama Sports Star 2019, instituted by Malayala Manorama in association with Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd, will recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding sportspersons from all across the state.
Anish P Rajan, one of the three finalists for the award, was the lone Kerala player in the 20-member India squad which lifted the inaugural Physical Disability T20 World Cricket Championship hosted by England in 2019.
Primarily a left-arm spinner and an effective lower-order batsman, he was in fine nick throughout the tournament, picking eleven wickets in five matches including a fifer against Bangladesh which fetched him player-of-the-match award. In the final against England, he picked up a crucial wicket besides effecting two run-outs. He was also a part of the Rest of the World XI which beat England later.
Born with a congenitally deformed right hand, it was sheer self-belief that took Anish to places. Apart from his bowling and batting skills, he is a live wire on the field.
Anish, who showed glimpses of his talent at a very young age, was encouraged to take up cricket seriously by his brother Sameesh. The first turning point was a training camp which he attended during the summer vacation after Class X examinations. Though the organisers refused to pick someone without one arm, he refused to budge and got himself enrolled for the camp.
A mechanical engineering degree holder, Anish was the captain of the college cricket team of Sree Narayana Gurukulam College of Engineering, Kolenchery. Soon, he broke into the Ernakulam district under-17 and U-19 teams and won the best bowler and player-of-the-tournament awards at a state-level junior cricket tournament in 2012.
Anish went on to play for the Tripunithura Cricket Club (TCC), and in 2017, he was named captain of the Kerala team for the physically challenged. At the national championship held in Haryana, he took 10 wickets in five matches and was adjudged the best bowler and fielder of the tournament.
His exploits in the A Division Disability Cricket Championship, held under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, helped him earn a place in the national squad.
According to Anish, if you are confident and willing to work hard, nothing can deter you from achieving your goals. "When people bully or make fun of me, I just ignore them. I always look to improve and do better than anyone else. I'm stubborn to become a better version of myself and that is what keeps me going," he says.
Anish, now 30, is the youngest of the three children of P Rajan and K K Shyamala, natives of Paramekkavu in Idukki district.
Vying for honours
The other two finalists for the prestigious award are chess prodigy Nihal Sarin and bodybuilder Chitharesh Natesan.
The winner will be determined via online/SMS voting.
The sportsperson with the maximum number of votes will receive the Manorama Sports Star 2019 award and a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh.
The second and third prize winners will be awarded trophies and a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively.
As many as 10 lucky persons who take part in the selection process will be given away Rs 10,000 each.
Format to vote
A. Nihal Sarin: MSA<space>A
B. Anish P Rajan: MSA<space>B
C. Chitharesh Natesan: MSA<space>C
The SMS should be sent to 56767123 (charges applicable) in the prescribed format. For example, if your pick is the first person on the list, the format should be MSA<space>A.
For online voting, log on to www.manoramaonline.com/sportsawards