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Sakibul Gani's short career as a cricketer is a classic case of turning adversity into opportunity. Gani put his name in the record books last month with a triple-century on first-class debut playing for Bihar. However, if he came from a family of better means, there was a good chance he would have stepped away from his home state a long time ago.
The youngest of seven children - he has three sisters and is one of four brothers - Gani's father is a farmer in Agarwa, a locality in the Motihari district of Bihar. As a young man, he would help on the family farm, where wheat and paddy are both cultivated, when not playing cricket. However, when they realised he had a knack for the game, his family did everything possible to support him. Unfortunately, they could not extend enough financial support to help him move to a bigger cricket centre.
"When Bihar got bifurcated and Jharkhand was born, Bihar lost its affiliation with the Indian board," Gani tells ESPNcricinfo. "When I grew up playing cricket, I too thought of moving to Jharkhand or another state, just like Shahbaz Nadeem or Ishan Kishan did. But we never had enough money for me to be able to do that." His older brother Faisal, who was also his inspiration behind taking up cricket, encouraged him to carry on playing in local tournaments. Luckily, Bihar would be absorbed into the main fold in 2017, before the Gani family could realise the shifting of their teenage prospect.
Motihari is about 150 kilometres away from the capital Patna, and lacks proper cricket facilities. On a good day, it is a four-hour bus ride away, one that Gani would have to take on a daily basis. In fact, if ever he missed the rare bus that was meant to take him to a trial, the family would pool in and get him a car to take the trip up and down to chase his dream.
Gani would respond in style, first securing his place in the state Under-23 team, and then making the senior ranks for the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy. Gani realised his real examination would come the day he represented Bihar in the Ranji Trophy, the ultimate first-class competition for an Indian cricketer. His first opponents were Mizoram in the Plate division, and that adds a bit of context to his spectacular innings of 341. It was, however, a world record and put him in a league of his own among centurions on debut.
"Being my debut, I did feel a bit of pressure, but my coach and captain encouraged me a lot. To be very honest, I had no idea it was a world-record score. Since when do cricketers keep track of such things," he laughs.
"When I called home and spoke to my mother after my world-record score, she broke down. These were tears of joy. When I would travel outside Motihari for cricket, she would cook some food and pack it for me. She stayed up nights and waited for me to come back after my games. She put in her share of prayers."
It is perhaps a happy coincidence that Gani's idol is the man who scored India's first Test triple-ton. Though his debut innings was unlike anything Virender Sehwag would have done - he had promised his coach that he wouldn't be employing either the cut or the lofted shot during his innings.
"I played every stroke with a straight bat," he recalls. "But I would like to bat like Sehwag sir when I play T20s or List A cricket. My dream is to play for India, but before that I would love to play in the IPL one day."
Bihar's head coach Zishan-ul-Yaquin says he knew from the way Gani was middling the ball in the nets that he was due for a big one. Assistant coach Pawan Kumar says that the Gani family's economic situation has proved to be a blessing in disguise for Bihar cricket, who could have easily lost a gem of a player.
Gani knows his performance may not hold the same weight as it might have had his team been playing in the Elite group. "I can only keep my focus on performing so well that people sit up and take notice," he says.