Disabled cricketer Anish P Rajan was named the Manorama Sports Star 2019. Former shooting star and India's lone individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra announced the winner on Tuesday night via video conference. The event was held virtually adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The three final contenders based on the result of the first phase of the SMS and online voting - Nihal Sarin (chess), Chitharesh Natesan (bodybuilding), and Anish - were present. Chitharesh won the second prize, while Nihal ended up third.
Anish was richer by Rs 3 lakh and received a trophy.
The second and third prize winners were awarded trophies and a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively.
The prestigious award, instituted by Malayala Manorama and Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd, is the biggest sports prize in Kerala.
Pattern Sports and Arts Society, Karanthur, Kozhikode, won the Manorama Sports Club 2019 honour. Future Football Academy, Eloor, and Dolphin Club, Thiruvananthapuram finished second and third respectively.
Pattern Sports and Arts Society was richer by Rs 3 lakh. The second and third place winners were awarded trophies and a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 1 lakh respectively.
Malayala Manorama Editorial Director Mathews Varghese and Denny Thomas Vattakunnel, Managing Director, Santa Monica Study Abroad Private Ltd gave away the prizes.
Anish 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 up 11 wickets in five matches, including a fifer against Bangladesh which fetched him player-of-the-match award.
In the final against England, he claimed 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.