Chanderpaul fulfils lifelong wish of wheelchair-bound mega fan
March 27, 2018- a date that would forever be remembered by Uttamkumar Isurdeen
Despite being wheelchair-bound for the last seven years, owing to a serious vehicular accident, which resulted in severe damage to his spinal cord, Uttamkumar Isurdeen sports an infectious smile and a positive attitude and his tremendous love for cricket has been the driving force behind his very existence.
In fact, such is his passion for the gentleman’s game, that Uttamkumar has installed an App on his phone- a device that is now one of his daily companions- so that he’s always in the loop when it comes to cricket.
Prior to that dreaded day in 2011, the now 32-year-old father of one was an avid cricketer on the Essequibo Coast, even captaining his team at Pomona Village.
He grew up idolising Guyana and West Indies batting legend, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and was even mistaken on a few occasions for the record-breaking left-handed middle-order batsman. “People used to say I had a slight ‘cuts’ to Shiv,” Uttamkumar said with a smile.
A former teacher of Western Hogg Island Primary School, Uttamkumar would listen to cricket commentary on the radio and would not miss a match on television whenever Chanderpaul was playing, be it for Guyana or West Indies.
“I always wanted to meet Shiv in person, because I’m a very big fan of him. I follow his career very closely and I admire his bravery, commitment, dedication and never-say-die attitude,” Uttamkumar explained.
Those are the very traits that have kept Uttamkumar going for the last seven years- bravery to overcome the challenges that come with his unfortunate situation; commitment and dedication to see his spouse and son achieve in life; and a never-say-die attitude that has sparked a belief that he would one day stand on his feet again.
It was during an interview with News Room’s Sport Editor, Avenash Ramzan, in late 2017 that Uttamkumar spoke glowingly of his desire to one day meet his favourite cricketer, even though his limited movement proved a challenge in attending games.
“I remember Uttamkumar sent me a friend request on Facebook and I started to follow his activities. I soon realised that despite his disability he was very enthused and positive about life. I also learnt that he was a regular winner on the television programme Lotto’s Cricket Info and Quiz, hosted by my good friend Edwin Seeraj,” Ramzan said.
“He also participated in activities such as walks to bring awareness on issues, as well as disability races, and that prompted me to do a video feature on him. It was then that I learnt of his desire to meet Chanderpaul. Given that Shiv and I communicate quite frequently, I thought I would make this happen, but I didn’t communicate that to Uttamkumar. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
(SEE VIDEO FEATURE HERE: https://www.facebook.com/newsroomgy/videos/2003072249969798/)
Ramzan added, “He won a West Indies branded shirt on one of those quiz shows and strangely enough Chanderpaul was one of the two players- Devon Smith being the other- who had not signed on the shirt. Uttamkumar mentioned to me during that interview that having Shiv sign on the shirt is something he would cherish.”
“I immediately contacted Shiv and we spoke about the possibility of meeting Uttamkumar. From the inception, Shiv was open to the meeting this mega fan, but given his commitment to regional cricket at the time and personal business, which required travelling in and out of Guyana, meant the meeting couldn’t immediately happen.”
On March 27, 2018, Chanderpaul, in the company of Ramzan, paid a surprise visit to Uttamkumar at his Industry home. Uttamkumar was resting on a bed, as only in February he injured himself on a visit to Kuru Kuru.
As Chanderpaul made his way in the room, Uttamkumar sported a nervous, boyish smirk. “How you doing buddy? Thanks for your support over the years,” Chanderpaul remarked as they shook hands.
Uttamkumar responded, “Since me small me want meet you. This is a good surprise. I was feeling down today, but this made my day.”
Chanderpaul encouraged his mega fan to continue to show great character in the face of his struggles, and to always remember tough people last, tough times don’t.
The former West Indies captain, who turns 44 in August, was happy to know that cricket is one of the things that keep Uttamkumar motivated daily, as he is keen on creating a pathway for his nine-year-old son Narindra to achieve what he didn’t in the game.
Narindra recently got first place at his end of term exams at Aurora Primary School. Chanderpaul said, “It’s good that he wants to play cricket and you want to see that happen, but remember education is important as well. A lot of players started playing late and still did well, so maybe he can focus on his schooling for now, but still play cricket as a back up.”
The visit got better when Chanderpaul presented Uttamkumar with a photograph of himself, and fellow batting greats Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, signed by all three players, as well as an undisclosed amount of cash.
“Thank you Shiv; this means a lot,” an emotional Uttamkumar said.
“Don’t mention. Just remember to don’t ever give up, and keep praying. You never know, someday something could slip back in place and you could be walking again,” Chanderpaul responded.
Uttamkumar has since invested in a gym bike to not only aid in helping to rebuild his leg muscles, but to also serve as a permanent reminder of that day when he met his hero.
Oh, Shiv’s signature is now prominent on that white shirt, featuring the West Indies players who participated in a Test match against Pakistan in the 2011 Digicel Home Series.