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Forgotten hero Gopal Bhengra meets his messiah

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Sunil Gavaskar (left) with Gopal Bhengra (Image Credit: Wisden India)

Kolkata: Former Indian hockey player, Gopal Bhengra’s dream of meeting his messiah, ex-Indian cricket captain, Sunil Gavaskar finally came true when the two met up on Sunday in Ranchi. Thanks to the initiative of the Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA), the two spent some time together in the JSCA Stadium which hosted the third Test between India and Australia. It was due to Gavaskar’s initiative CHAMPS that Bhengra could make two ends meet after retirement. CHAMPS – an acronym for Caring, Helping, Assisting, Motivating, Promoting Sportspersons – Foundation has been providing Bhengra with a monthly stipend of Rs 7500 since the late 1990s. Gavaskar was in Ranchi to commentate in the Test that ended in a draw.

“I have waited for so long for this moment, and I really don’t have words,” said Bhengra who was delighted to meet Gavaskar. The legend too was visibly happy to interact with Bhengra. “I am so happy that you are here. It is not every day that one gets to meet a real champion,” Gavaskar said. Bhengra, was gifted an Indian cricket team jersey by Gavaskar.

Bhengra who hails from Vyur Gurai, a village, some 55 km away from Ranchi, represented the Indian hockey team with distinction and played in the Buenos Aires World Cup in 1978 where India narrowly missed a semi-final spot.

But once he hung up his boots, Bhengra, who played for Mohun Bagan between 1980 and 1986 and even captained the team, was reduced to breaking stones in a quarry and sheltering along with his family in a house made of mud, straw and wood. This was till the late 1990s, when Bhengra used to receive a monthly pension of Rs 1475 after retiring from the Indian Army in 1979, and had to supplement that measly amount by doing a menial job – 100 crushed stones would fetch him Rs 50 – to keep his family going. He lived in relative anonymity, not knowing when or whether his life would change until the Little Master came to his rescue.

(With inputs from Wisden India)

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