From a tent in Mumbai's Azad Maidan, a cricket star rises


Two years ago, when Adeeb Usmani's family left Mumbai for their village near Azamgarh, the 13-year-old stayed back; he wanted to be a cricketer. He was alone in the big city, and his father could give him no money, so Adeeb made a tent in Azad Maidan his home, and his coach Naushad Khan his life's anchor.

In the under-16 Vijay Merchant tournament that ended on Monday, the opener-wicketkeeper played consistently well, helping Mumbai to the title. His 366 runs from five matches up to the final included a century and a 77 in the semifinal against Punjab; in the final, he scored 54 in the first innings.

"My father had a hotel in Dharavi but he suffered huge losses. So he had to move to UP. Naushad sir helped me get a place in the tent at Azad Maidan. Whatever I am today is because of him," young Adeeb told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the final against Delhi.

Adeeb has his meals at a small restaurant an uncle of his has near Azad Maidan. "Naushad sir spoke to him and he agreed to give me food. But he has no interest in cricket," Adeeb said. He said his father doesn't keep well; he calls home regularly, but hasn't had the chance to visit his village.

Adeeb studies in class 10 at Anjuman Islamia, where cricket helped him get admission. Mumbai U-16 coach Vinod Raghavan said he was "an upcoming prospect".

Adeeb hasn't told his parents he lives in a tent. "I tell them I live in a room, so they feel I am secure. Otherwise, they will call me back to the village."

Adeeb himself doesn't mind the tent, pitched in a park that has nurtured generations of cricketers. "The tent is a happy place for me. I have lots of memories attached to it."

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