The accident that changed Krishna Das' life
Krishna Das, a medium-pacer from Assam, has 35 wickets from six games this season at an average of 10.97. He is the joint third -highest wicket-taker, the only seamer in the top-five, and the main reason why Assam have done well. He is 25. It is a miracle he is alive.
On October 6, 2006, on Lakshmi Pooja day, Krishna and three other friends were returning home after taking in the festivities. Krishna remembers that around 9-9.30 pm a truck, reversing from a gas station, rammed into the Maruti Zen in which they were driving. They were all injured, but Krishna, who was on the left rear seat bore the brunt of the accident.
When he regained consciousness two days later, he was swathed in bandages. Krishna had lost a tooth, suffered a bruised nose, a broken left arm and had ten stitches on the tongue. He spent 16 days, including his 16th birthday, in hospital. Three agonising months later, he was back on the cricket field doing what he loved: bowling long spells.
How did he manage such a quick turnaround?
"I actually felt bad then [after the accident], looking at my family and [Assam coach] Sanath [Kumar] sir," Krishna tells ESPNcricinfo. "My family and friends were fully supportive, and that motivated me to get better [sooner than expected]. Sanath sir ko mein bhagwaan maanta hoon (Sanath is like God to me). He as well as the state association and Abu Nechim helped me out financially then."
Krishna says he didn't for a moment entertain thoughts that his cricketing career was finished. "My coaches and team-mates were egging me on to get better and resume playing soon," he says. "My childhood coach Javed Akhtar Khan and Sanath sir would call me every day."
What also helped Krishna was he wasn't left to wallow in pity. Once he was able to move around, his friends would take him out to watch cricket - inter-district, inter-club, anything. That, according to Krishna, touched him. "I felt that, 'Yes this has happened, but how long am I going to get bogged down?'" he says. "There were so many friends and people around me who wanted me to come back to normalcy again. It made me more determined to get back on to the field again."
Krishna had a metal plate inserted to straighten his left arm - which he has till day - and gradually began to bowl in the dream of adding to his four caps for Assam. There were, however, other roadblocks that presented themselves. His first coach and mentor Sanath, who had picked up Krishna from the under-15 nets and thrust him into first-class cricket, had moved to Karnataka. This period coincided with Krishna falling off the Assam radar.
He found a place in India's under-19 teams, BCCI's specialist academies, but was somehow not deemed good enough to play for Assam. In 2010, he was advised to focus on under-19 cricket with the World Cup approaching, and was not picked in the state side. "A selector told me I was part of the under-19 World Cup probables," Krishna says. "I felt bad that I wasn't allowed to play in the Ranji Trophy, which helped me gain recognition in the first place. Ultimately I wasn't a part of the under-19 World Cup squad as well."
Krishna was dealt a bigger blow two years later when he was included neither in the Assam side nor in its under-25 team. "I felt horrible because I wasn't picked in any side that represented Assam," he says. At that point, Krishna's only vocal backer, in Sanath's absence, was Abu Nechim. Abu is his team-mate, "room-partner" and best friend. Ask Krishna about his role-models, and Waqar Younis or Allan Donald are trumped by Abu and Mark Ingty, a former Assam seamer.
"When I started playing cricket, Abu was very promising at the junior level and I have always wanted to emulate him," Krishna says. "We even made our Ranji Trophy debuts together, and share a great friendship."
Sanath's comeback has brought him back into the team, where he belongs. He has had a hand in each of Assam's three outright wins this season, and believes this is the best bowling attack Assam have had. Senior batsman KB Arun Karthik, who is Assam's highest run-scorer this season, says Krishna's biggest strength is his ability to bowl tirelessly. "He might not be too pacy, but can bowl 10 to 12 overs in one spell and get the ball to move both into the batsman and away from him," Arun says.
Through the ups and downs, Krishna has also learnt the importance of letting go. It is perhaps what has helped him reconcile with the accident. Krishna was told by his friends that after the accident his upper body lay suspended outside while waist down he was stuck inside the mangled car. The driver had fled the scene and a subsequent legal battle didn't yield much monetary compensation.
"It was a terrible accident, but it had to happen. I don't want to lament about yeh hua, woh hua (this and that happened)," Krishna says. What rankles him, however, is he still can't remember what exactly happened in the moments leading up to the accident. He says he tries to recollect the sequence every time he drives past the place. "I have to use that route every time I visit Javed sir at his academy, and I go there often," he says. "The last thing I remember was I had asked my friend to change the song playing in the car's stereo."
Ask him if he would have been a better bowler if not for the accident. "Shayad (maybe)," he replies and pauses. "Shaayad."
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo