Kamal Kaniyal remembers the day when he went for a blood check-up and the doctor advised his father Umesh to take him to a Noida hospital for further treatment. He doesn't remember the full conversation his father had with his doctor. He heard that his platelet count was decreasing and he would need to travel to the Uttar Pradesh city for treatment.
He was 15, the tests were done and the report stated that he was suffering from leukemia, cancer of the blood.
On Thursday, three years after recovering from cancer, Kanyal slammed a hundred on debut for Uttarakhand against Maharashtra in Baramati in a Ranji tie. Kanyal scored 101 off 160 balls which had 17 fours in it.
“It was the second stage and t I was told that 47% of my body was affected by it,” Kanyal recalls while talking to The Indian Express. A young and promising cricketer, who was selected for UP under-14 trials among 40 players and later for the under -16 trials among 60 players, could never break into the final squad. Cancer meant the boy from Haldwani near Nainital, couldn't do much the next year.
Three years ago, Uttarakhand was not a permanent member until Lodha Committee's recommendation came in and handed full membership to the association. It opened the gates for local cricketers too and meant they were no longer at the mercy of Uttar Pradesh, who always gave them a cold shoulder. Like Yuvraj Singh, who had fought cancer and made a comeback, the Haldwani survivor also scripted his return.
He made it to the Ranji Trophy squad after scoring 800 runs in nine under-19 games, hitting one double hundred, two hundreds and three fifties.
Recalling those testing times, Kaniyal said he never lost hope and knew in his heart that he would beat the ailment.
“I was 15 when I suffered cancer, one year I couldn't do anything. I had leukemia, my family didn't tell me much then. I used to often fall ill and my platelet count would drop rapidly,” he recollects. He adds, “Later when we went to Fortis Hospital in Noida, I was just told that I have blood infection. I heard the doctor saying I have cancer. I told myself now that I am getting treatment I shouldn’t worry much.”
Whether he would play cricket again or not, wasn’t in his mind. His father, a retired army havildar, comforted his young son and never let Kaniyal panic.
“The doctor said chances of recovery are high. The doctor said at this age the body recovers quickly. I underwent five rounds of chemotherapy. I had no idea what it meant. I had positive people around me who motivated and kept me happy. My family used to say that I am a tiger, ‘ladka bahut hi bahadur hai’, bus yeh line sunke josh aa jata tha (our boy is very brave and I felt really energised whenever I heard my folks say that ,” he recalls.
After six months of treatment, the doctors said he is fine, but at home precautions were taken. It took him nearly one year to recover fully. When he did so, the first thing he did was hit the ground again. Kaniyal and his family rarely open up about their tribulations which they consider the darkest phase of their lives.
When Uttarakhand played under-19 games, the opening batsman made it to the side. He said, “There used to be no Uttarakhand association before, the association came up two years ago. We used to try to make it to the UP side but were rejected on countless occasions. I did attend under-14 camps, where we had 40 boys and the camp got over in four to five days. Later, I was picked for the under-16 camp which ended in four days with some trial matches.”
Back in Baramati, he admits there was some pressure of playing his debut game. But he managed to not let a single negative thought enter his mind. Ask him how he sees his career ahead, he replies philosophically, “Aage ka kisne dekha hai, jaisa chal raha hai chalta rahe. (Who knows what the future holds, I will go with the flow).”
Brief Scores: Maharashtra 207 all out in 49.4 overs (A Palkar 60, V V More 59, N S Shaikh 47; Agrim Tiwari 3/49, Pradeep Chamoli 3/52) and 140 for 2 in 46 overs (Ankit Bawane 50 batting, Swapnil Fulpagar 40 batting) vs Uttarakhand 251 all out in 38 overs (Kamal Singh 101, Saurabh Rawat 49, Vaibhav Bhatt 33; Satyajit Bachhav 4/71).