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Paralysed pacer marks new run-up

Aveek Chowdhury is lean with strong shoulders and arms, like a fast bowler ought to be. As he shuffles in his chair, it seems he is about to stand up and show how to bowl an inswinger. But the 28-year-old former Bengal player cannot. Paralysed from the waist down after a road accident four years ago, he lives — and works out several hours daily — in the hope that one day he will stand again.

“I haven’t given up,” says Aveek, who attends office at the income tax headquarters at Esplanade — an hour’s journey from his home at Dum Dum Cantonment — in his wheelchair five days a week.

He exercises before and after office on weekdays and nine hours a day on weekends to remain active and regain strength in his legs. “Thankfully, I have multi-gym equipment at home from my playing days. But a lot of the exercises now are prescribed physiotherapy. Since the accident, I get cramps if I don’t exercise and keep the blood circulation active.”

The AB de Villiers and Shane Watson fan has no time to brood about his misfortune. When he finds time, he goes out with his mother and uncle or erstwhile teammates like Debabrata (Das), Anustup (Majumdar), Sourav (Sarkar) and Writam Porel.

The bowling allrounder, who had first made the Bengal cut in 2008 in a Ranji game against Madhya Pradesh in Gwalior, has almost no recollection of the accident on October 19, 2009, that changed his life.

The hatchback he was driving rammed into a tree on a median divider on the EM Bypass. The St. Xavier’s College alumnus, who had played seven Ranji Trophy and 13 List A (domestic one-day) games, was to leave with the state squad the next day for a T20 competition in Dhanbad.

When Aveek came to in a hospital bed after three days on ventilator support, everything was a blur. Apart from sustaining injuries to his abdomen and diaphragm, he fractured three of his vertebrae, which paralysed his legs.

“I used to think I was returning home after a practice session of the Bengal squad at Eden. Then I learnt that it was afterwards, when I was on my way to Lake Town from Jadavpur to watch a movie,” says Aveek.

He spent six months in hospital in Calcutta and Delhi, initially fighting for his life and later to get back as much motor and sensory function in his lower limbs as he could.

“Immediately after the accident, it was difficult to accept what had happened. But during my treatment at the Indian Spinal Injury Centre in Delhi, I was moved by the plight of patients with more acute problems than mine,” says Aveek.

“Also, in a way, it helped that I was not getting any news of Bengal cricket,” he adds.

His mother’s voice trails away as she recalls how his friends used to rib him about his slow driving and wonders how the accident happened.

But Aveek refuses to dwell in the past. The sportsman in him had surfaced the moment he was back in Calcutta.

He threw himself into rehabilitation, pushing himself hard on the gym equipment and the parallel bars in the garden, every once in a while trying to put some weight on his legs and paddle the exercise bike.

“I often feel that this is like a cricket match to him and he won’t give up easily,” says Aveek’s father Basu, who also works at Aayakar Bhavan.

To the father’s great joy, the hard work seems to be paying off. He has noticed that his son now needs less help to get on and off the wheelchair.

For Aveek, life since accident has been about many compromises — he cannot even have spicy food — that he tries not to think about, especially when watching cricket on TV.

In a bid to stay connected with the game, he has started analysing matches for a website recently.