Children from poor families in India can generally only dream of making it big in cricket. Rajesh Pundir, a former Indian government employee, is helping them turn that dream into reality, writes the BBC’s Kinjal Pandya-Wagh in Delhi.
Last October, Mr Pundir set up a Slum Cricket League to give children living in Delhi slums a chance at playing the sport professionally.
“Just watch these children play – they are no less than professionals,” he says. “All that they need is coaching and support.”
Mr Pundir started doing social work seven years ago and two years back, he set up the Community Foundation Charitable Trust, a non-governmental organisation, to help underprivileged women and children.
This is the seventh article in a BBC series Unsung Indians, profiling people who are working to improve the lives of others.
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His role model, he says, is his father who has always helped poor and underprivileged families.
Last year, he was visiting a slum with his father, when they saw a group of children playing cricket with a worn out bat and ball, without any equipment.
“When we reached the office that day, we discussed with our team how we could help these children. With help from some like-minded people, we managed to raise enough funds to get going,” he told the BBC.
They set up the Slum Cricket Academy in September last year to give professional cricket coaching to the children.
Its first tournament was organised in October, with children from 10 different slums of south Delhi participating.
“The first tournament was memorable. Everyone was impressed with the talent of these children,” Mr Pundir said.
A second tournament was held in December and the third is due to be held in April.
Today, more than 100 underprivileged children from across Delhi slums are receiving cricket coaching and everyday young boys can be seen practising after school.
“Cricket is religion in India and cricketers are gods. Children enjoy this game so much. All you need to give them is coaching and they will prove themselves,” Mr Pundir says.
In one of the slums in south Delhi that participate in the league, young boys are suddenly dreaming big.
“I now have a dream, I want to be like [legendary Indian cricketer] Sachin Tendulkar. I will buy a better home for my family when I become a cricketer,” says Aman Kumar.
“Initially I was not sure whether my children will benefit from cricket but now I can see a change in them. They have done well in matches last year. I hope this helps them achieve what they want in life,” says his mother Anita Devi.
“If this game can change their lives, I will be happy for them. These days I am just really surprised to see how my boys are dreaming big.”