Blind cricketer Shekhar Naik: More than Padma award, I need a job

India's two-time blind World Cup-winning cricket captain Shekhar Naik is struggling financially and has requested India's sports minister Kiren Rijiju for a sports quota job as he is finding it difficult to survive with wife, Puja, 31, and two daughters, Purvika, 10, and Sanvika, five.

Bangalore-based Naik, 33, the only blind cricketer in the country to be honoured with the Padma Shri, led India to the 2012 T20 World Cup title in Bangalore and the 2015 ODI World Cup win in South Africa. He presently works for a private firm but the Coronavirus-forced lockdown seems to have hurt his company, and consequently, him. "My salary is R25,000 of which my house rent is R12,000. Somehow, I have been managing with that previously, but due to this lockdown, my salary has been on hold and I have not been able to pay rent for the last two months. My family is going through a hard time. I have used up most of my savings," Naik told mid-day on Wednesday.

Repeated requests to the authorities for help have gone unheard. "In the last eight years, I have met different Karnataka chief ministers, requesting them for a government job. Last December, I met sports minister Rijiju in Delhi and told him that more than the Padma Shri, I desperately need a good job because my wife is also blind," said Naik, a Bachelor of Arts graduate.

Shekhar Naik against Pakistan in 2013

Naik was born totally blind before an accident at the age of eight led to a surgery that saw him regain 60 per cent of his vision in the right eye while the left could not be treated.

A B2 category blind cricketer, Naik's medium pace bowling earned him 22 wickets and the best bowler's award at the 2012 T20 World Cup. The Karnataka government gave him a cash prize of R3 lakh which he paid towards the deposit of his rental home. He received R7 lakh from the sports ministry as part of the 2014 ODI World Cup-winning side for which he scored 650 runs and took 17 wickets. From that, he donated Rs 2.10 lakh to the Cricket Association for the Blind in India to help other blind cricketers.

Naik with wife and daughters   

In 2017, besides the Padma Shri, Naik also received R1 lakh each, from the central government (national award) and at the Karnataka Rajyotsava. He invested a part of that in fixed deposits for his daughters while the rest has been spent towards their education.

"It's good that blind cricketers receive awards, however small they may be, but it's more important that they be given proper jobs for a secure future," Naik concluded.

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