Irfan Pathan Steps Up To Help Chennai’s Famous ‘Chepauk Cobbler’

Baskaran was selected by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) nearly 27 years ago.

Updated
Sports
4 min read
Baskaran has a family of seven and has been struggling to make ends meet due to COVID-19 and postponement of IPL. This picture was taken before coronavirus struck.
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A Baskaran can always be spotted outside MA Chidambaram stadium, popularly called Chepauk stadium, a landmark in Chennai and a favourite adda for every cricket fan.

With a broken-toothed smile, he would cheerfully fix pads, gloves, helmets, shoes, while sitting on a mat on the pavement.

For 27 years, he has been the official cobbler of the Indian cricket team whenever they’re in Chennai and in the last 12 years, he has worked as the Chennai Super Kings’ official cobbler for every home game with a small workstation right outside the players’ and match officials’ area.

March would have marked his 13th season with MS Dhoni and the boys but a pandemic, that has now shaken the entire world, forced the suspension of the league and with it, his income.

On a regular day sitting outside the stadium, Baskaran earned around Rs 500 a day but the IPL season was the time he could earn Rs 8,000 or more during an approximate number of eight matches in a month.

But it has been more than 2 months since he went back to his small shop and it will be a while before he will be allowed back. The months of the year that he was to be a part of the IPL celebrations have turned to some of the toughest in his life.

A Family of Seven

Baskaran lives in a tiny house with his wife, two sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law.

“My daughter-in-law used to work for a company, my son works as a delivery boy with Zomato, my daughter works as a house-help and another son works as a mechanic.”
Baskaran, Official Cobbler of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) to The Quint

“We are living together now during this lockdown and even otherwise. My children were earning earlier, but even that was enough only to sustain themselves. It has been very difficult during this time and they have not been able to earn. I am trying to support everyone somehow,” he told The Quint.

While free ration from the Tamil Nadu government has been helping them partially, he said the future seems very bleak as he believes it will be long before matches resume and life will be back to normal.

“I have diabetes but I have not had medicines for more than six months due to personal and financial issues,” he said.

Baskaran lives in a tiny house with his wife, two sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law.
Baskaran lives in a tiny house with his wife, two sons, a daughter and a daughter-in-law.
(Photo Courtesy: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

Irfan Pathan Steps in to Help

In these tough times, the friendships he formed in the Chepauk dressing have come to his rescue.

Former India cricketer Irfan Pathan read a report in ESPNCricinfo about the difficulties being faced by Baskaran and immediately got his number and sent money across to his account.

Raunak Kapoor, a presenter with ESPN Cricinfo, took to Twitter to share the message.

“Irfan Pathan sent some money (Rs 25,000) with which I bought things for the house, It was very helpful because I am not earning anything as there is no work,” he told The Quint.

“No beating the drum about it, no credit sought, and inspite of not being able to reach him initially, Irfan followed through.” 
Raunak wrote in his Twitter post

“This is a man who is continuously subject to abuse and vicious trolling from right wing accounts and the IT cell. He also stands tall, and often by himself, when it comes to speaking out on issues that matter, in what is otherwise, a highly conformist cricket industry. He stands even taller today. Well done, Irfan,” the post read.

A Little Help From Y(our) Friends

He has shared a conversation and even watched matches with the likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Adam Gilchrist, Chris Gayle, David Warner, VVS Laxman.
He has shared a conversation and even watched matches with the likes of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Adam Gilchrist, Chris Gayle, David Warner, VVS Laxman.
(Photo Courtesy: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

The Quint’s readers too had contributed funds to help Baskaran earlier in March.

On 19 March, The Quint had published a story about how he had been working on a pavement all his life. We were flooded with messages from people all over the country reminiscing how he has helped fix cricketing gear for many people across generations.

A few benevolent die-hard cricket fans from Hyderabad and Bengaluru, who didn’t want to be named, stepped in to help him financially.

Baskaran said he received over Rs 18,000 and was overjoyed. This fund was to go into setting up a permanent shop, however in less than two weeks, the coronavirus pandemic struck and all his plans were foiled.

“I am grateful I got this money after your article, because I have been sustaining my family with this fund. Thank you to those people who I bless and wish only good in life.”
Baskaran, Official Cobbler of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) to The Quint

Baskaran though says his family’s future is quite bleak, now that his livelihood has come to a sudden halt. “I don’t know when things will change... will become good. I have so many people to support and I don’t know how to do it,” he said.

He said that any kind of help during these difficult times would be a ‘saving grace’ for him.

“Please help us in any way possible. We will be very grateful if we get some financial help.”
Baskaran, Official Cobbler of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA)
Baskaran requested that any kind of help during these difficult times would be a ‘saving grace’ for him.
Baskaran requested that any kind of help during these difficult times would be a ‘saving grace’ for him.
(Photo: The Quint) 
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