Cricket was his life, and the pitch the cradle of his dreams. But an on-field injury, followed by gross medical negligence, claimed his life, crushed a promising career and left his parents to live out a nightmare.
Vivekananda Park’s Bulan Cricket and Football Academy was a second home for Rajnis Patel. For, this was where the strapping 6-ft-2-inch pace bowler had been training for the past five years. And gloom descended over the south Calcutta club on Monday as news of his death reached.
The 17-year-old died of “infection and blood loss” at SSKM Hospital early on Monday. “His was a promising career that got snuffed out just as it was starting to take wing,” said coach Bulan Mukherjee. “We were preparing to send him to England next year to play for one of the minor counties… He had participated in tournaments in Delhi and Bangalore and was playing second-division cricket here.”
At his Bhowanipore home, parents Manoj and Munni Patel, still in a daze, displayed certificates from E.A.S. Prasanna, with the ace off-spinner praising Rajnis’ cricketing abilities. “He would eat, drink and sleep cricket,” said Munni. “Had it not been for the neglect at the hospital, he would have been a big cricketer one day.”
Coach Mukherjee lamented that he had urged Rajnis’ father several times to allow members of the academy to raise resources and arrange for better medical care for Rajnis. “But he (Manoj) always refused, insisting that he would give his son the treatment he could afford, so that when he grew up, Rajnis would be able to face the world and stand on his own two feet.”
On Monday, Manoj was inconsolable. The small saloon he runs in Bhowanipore hardly met the family expenses, he mumbled. “We were looking to our only son, who was training to be a professional cricketer, to help us out in our old age,” he said. “But the callousness of the doctors has finished everything. We have nothing to look forward to.”
So keen was Rajnis on making the cut as a cricketer that he would spend hours bowling at a single stump on a vacant plot near his house, to get his line and length just right. “He was so dedicated to the game that he would keep on bowling at that single stump for an hour or two, almost every day,” said friend and neighbour Mukesh.
“He had no time even for his meals,” cried mother Munni. “He used to be so engrossed in the game that he often forgot to eat on time. I was always worried that he would skip his meals and fall ill. Now…”
At the orthopaedic ward of SSKM, where Rajnis had hoped to recover to restart his cricket, Monday was a day of mourning. “Other patients used to come and discuss cricket with him, since Rajnis was a very friendly boy,” said his uncle Girish. “On Monday, the ward went deathly silent and some patients even refused to eat.”