Cricket > Specials


An old man with two children tugging at his hands climbs the stairs with great difficulty. "Thatha (grandfather), come fast," the little ones try to pull him along.

But when they finally reach the top of the stairs, the children are in for a big disappointment. Their hero is not home.

The children's hero? Lakshmipathy Balaji, one of Indian cricket's new stars after the tour of Pakistan.

"People from the neighbourhood and from faraway places are pouring in every day," says Balaji's mother Mallika, an employee of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. "All of them want to meet Balaji and take his autograph. We do not know how to manage the crowds and the phone calls. We are not used to this kind of attention. It is quite tiring.'

Balaji's father Lakshmipathy is an assistant electrical inspector with the state electrical inspectorate. He is not at all amused about strangers and the media intruding into their hitherto quiet lives.

"We couldn't watch the last part of one match," Lakshmipathy complains. "There were people here with cameras watching us and asking us questions!

"See, we are not retired people," he continues. "All of us are working. They come here with cameras just when we are about to leave for office and ask for 'just five minutes.' Finally, it goes on for an hour! We cannot go late to the office.

"Media people even started coming to our offices when they saw the house locked... We cannot manage the continuously ringing telephone either. On top of it are people from all places just dropping in to see Balaji!"

But Lakshmipathy concedes that all these intrusions are because their only son was a big success on the Pakistan tour.

Balaji's sister Vijayalakshmi, an engineer working for Cognizant Technology Solutions, is more patient. She looks at the change in their lives over the last month as something of a pleasant surprise. "We are middle-class people," she says, "and lived a very quiet life till now. All this attention is quite new to us. That is why we find it difficult. Hope we get used to it!"


Reportage: Shobha Warrier. Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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