Who was Baba ‘Panther’ Sidhaye a.k.a Yashwant Prabhakar? He was the very first deaf and mute Indian cricketer, who died fighting for recognition and reward for the various records he held in his cricketing career. He played between 1952-1968. From a modest family, he earned anywhere between Rs 8 to Rs 15 in the most high-profile of matches of his time.
According to MensXP, Baba was one of the most respected cricketers in the Ranji Trophy- known for his sharp reflexes and acrobatics in the field. He was the original batting maestro, hitting sixers at will and demolishing the bowling attacks without proper head-gear. Once he hit a six so high and long that it ended up in the Arabian Sea; a feat that has never been repeated since.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s film ‘Iqbal’ was loosely based on the true story of Baba but neither his family nor he were given any recognition for being the inspiration for the movie. He has three world records to his name one of which has been authenticated by the Limca Book of Records.
Baba played 42 Ranji matches for Maharashtra, Mumbai and Railways from 1952 to 1968 scoring 10-15 sixes in many matches. Such was the prowess of this man on the field that he accounted for huge wickets through his razor sharp fielding. That is the main reason he was acknowledged as a ‘Panther’ among his colleagues. He was also an occasional leg spinner and took 10 wickets in his career.
Though he never got a chance to play for India, Baba did represent his state and division against the touring New Zealand and Australia. After retiring from cricket, Baba was intensely involved in coaching at the grass root level. His find Balwinder Singh Sandhu represented India in the epic win in 1983 World Cup.
Think Change India salutes Baba Panther Sidhaye for overcoming his disability and contributing generously to the history of Indian cricket-for dedicating 57 years of his life preparing young cricketing minds for the rigours of international cricket.