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Krishna Chandran Karate is the first from Kerala to represent UAE at the International level. Photo courtesy: Nishad Pai Vaidya

Krishna Chandran Karate is the first from Kerala to play international cricket for UAE. It is quite surprising considering the fact that majority of the Indians settled in UAE are from God’s Own Country. From being a Kerala domestic cricketer whose life was at crossroads to an international cricketer playing the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Krishna’s story is interesting. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Krishna on the eve of UAE’s ICC World Cup 2015 clash against India at the WACA in Perth.

UAE has thousands of Indians who have left their homes in an endeavour to find better opportunities. Living in the UAE, you wouldn’t miss India: you will find your countrymen, restaurants, groceries, and people speaking your languages etc. Majority of the Indians in the UAE are from Kerala — to the extent that Malayalam is taught in a few Indian schools as well (and relevant jokes keep making rounds on social media).

Considering that, it is quite surprising that only one Keralite has represented UAE in cricket. With the game being majorly played by the expatriates, one would have expected a few Keralites to make it, but Krishna Chandran Karate has the honour of breaking that drought.

On the eve of UAE’s game against India at ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Krishna looked relaxed, beaming a smile as he greeted numerous people from India. Along with his teammate Swapnil Patil, a Mumbai boy, he hogged the attention of the Indian media. Speaking to CricketCountry, Krishna said, “When I got to know about this fact (being the first Malayali to play for UAE), even I was quite surprised because I know that amongst the Indians who play cricket there, majority of them are Malayalis. It was quite surprising that I was the first one to break into the senior side.” Read: UAE want to perform well in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to strengthen their case, says Mudassar Nazar

For Krishna, this is a matter of great pride as he put in a lot of hard work back home in Kerala. “It gave me a lot of happiness, for whatever hard work I put in all those years in India, then came looking for a job and still continued playing. It is a great feeling to be the first. When you go back in history, my name will come first so it is a proud moment,” he said. Krishna hails from Kollengode and came to the UAE a few years ago to find a good balance between his work and cricket.

 

 

But cricket was not something he expected to take up while growing up. As years went by, the passion grew in his mind. As a young boy, his parents sent him to a boarding school in Chennai, where he started playing the sport to battle homesickness. Despite his emotional blackmailing his parents were adamant: Krishna had no option but to remain in Chennai.

Today, he calls it the turning point of his life: “I would say that I wanted to escape from homesickness. I used to play cricket back in my hometown, with my neighbours and school friends. I never thought that cricket would become an integral part of my life and change my life altogether.” He overcame the pain of staying away from family and friends, making cricket his passion: “Maybe fate was with me and I continued playing. That became my love and passion. It started there and now I am here.”

One can say that Krishna has managed to stay away from home since a young age and has done quite well. He was away in Bangalore during his college days and played alongside Stuart Binny and Robin Uthappa. “I played in college with Stuart Binny and Robin (Uthappa) in Bangalore. I did my graduation from Mahavir Jain College. Almost all the guys playing the current Ranji Trophy and IPL (from Karnataka) were there. Manish Pandey and Mayank Agarwal were juniors, but Robin and others were in my batch,” Krishna says as he faces the prospect of playing against Binny in the upcoming game against India.

Krishna’s cricket was a bit of a stop-start affair in Kerala. He represented them in age-group cricket, but played only a handful of games at the senior level. A Ranji Trophy call-up did not materialise and Krishna’s life was at crossroads. But as it is often said, when one door closes, another opens. That door charted a path for Krishna’s dream to play at the highest level. “I was playing Under-19, Under-22 and Under-25 for Kerala; then I got a chance to play T20 when the first domestic tournament was held. A couple of years later, I got a chance in List A. I was there in the Ranji Trophy camp but did not get the call-up. That was unfortunate. It was a desperate situation for me. I had to get a job as nothing was working out back in Kerala. I tried in a lot of places, but nothing worked out. It was disappointing. Luckily, I got an offer from Dubai and right now I have no regrets as I am getting to play the biggest event in cricket,” Krishna says with an air of fulfilment. His dream has come true; he has had the opportunity to play at the highest level against some of the biggest names in the game.

On Saturday, Krishna is likely to be a part of the XI that would play India. Back in India he would have been one of the million kids dreaming of donning the blue jersey. While he may not have won it, playing against India is certainly a very memorable occasion. “It makes it more special. I couldn’t play back in Kerala and definitely there was a dream of playing for the country. It didn’t happen as I expected. But, as I said, no regrets as I am getting to play the top teams and the defending champions. It is giving me a lot of confidence that we can go there and give our best shot,” he signs off with that infectious smile as he gets ready for the game against India.

A lot of the times, you never know where fate takes you for your good. Looking back, Krishna knows!

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)