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By Jayashree Lengade-Shetty (DOUBLING UP)
1 April 2011
What is life like when people mistake you for the greatest cricketer in the world? balvir chand, a former hospital ward boy who resembles the master blaster, has all the answers
Jaws drop, heads turn and people simply gape in awe as internationally renowned cricket idol Sachin Tendulkar’s lookalike Balvir Chand strolls across a crowded pavement in a Mumbai suburb. With the Cricket World Cup fever in the air and Tendulkar breaking new records of centuries, the admiration is palpable. People, walking on the road, driving cars or at traffic signals, cannot stop smiling and admiring their ‘hero’ even if he were only in the form of a clone.
A leading run-scorer and century-maker in Test and One-Day Internationals, Tendulkar has had many firsts to his cricketing career spanning more than 20 years. A legion of fans in India and overseas look up to him as a genius, an honest man with impeccable manners, who maintains calm at all times and is very humble. Such is the adulation for the batsman that fans have written letters to him in blood! Little wonder that when Tendulkar plays fans have held out placards like: “I’ll see God when I die, but till then I’ll see Sachin”; or one that simply said: “God Sachin”.
Emulating someone as great as the ‘Master Blaster’ is an onerous task confesses Chand, and admits to being extremely cautious and constantly looking over his shoulder to be above board and keeping a clean image. That effort has perhaps paid off as Chand gets to bask in some of that admiration, even being mobbed by cricket lovers or autograph hunters. Sporting blue-tinted sunglasses and aqua coloured tracks and a jersey, Team India’s attire, the short and stocky clone looks almost like the living legend.
Forty-one-year-old Chand’s mane is a mop of styled curls with some cropped hair resting on his temple. The child-like smile is well rehearsed and his walk exudes confidence like that of his hero. Work-outs and jogging are a daily routine to look fit and sporty.
The rest, said the lookalike artist, he has to live by practice. He has learnt to pose in Tendulkar’s classic batting shots and imitate the now familiar squeaky soft voice that the “Little Champion” was associated with in his teens and early adulthood.
“I feel blessed. I cannot thank God enough for all that I have received in my life,” said Chand, a former hospital ward-boy from Chandigarh, northern Punjab, who studied up to class 10. Being known as the cricketer’s clone is in itself a huge compliment for Chand, who worships Tendulkar’s photo along with other pictures of gods and goddesses in his home at suburban Mira Road.
Chand explained that his fortune had changed since he moved to Mumbai — the place where Tendulkar resides.
Many clones of top stars work in Mumbai’s Bollywood films performing tiny parts and mostly dangerous stunts in dummy roles. Once in a blue moon they get B-grade movies to play the part as a duplicate of their hero. The scope of substantial and lucrative work coming their way is limited because duplicates of movie stars and sports celebrities remain as clones imitating or mimicking their heroes at local musical shows during festivals and election campaigns.
Tendulkar’s duplicates are many, but Chand perhaps comes closest in resemblance and ends up bagging small screen space in advertisement films in which the icon player is unable to spare time for shooting certain angles like long or back shots.
As a young boy, Chand — like most cricket crazy Indians — enjoyed watching the game on television, but he hardly played the sport. Now he has learnt the finer nuances, watched matches in stadiums and travelled to the UK and Canada as a Tendulkar clone.
Chand is currently a co-anchor, entertaining viewers in characteristic Tendulkar style, but with a bit of humour thrown in for good measure, for a show on a local news channel. The pay cheque, he said, helped him provide for his wife, three children and support his extended family of 12 people, consisting of his brothers and their families, who reside in Sahlon village in Punjab.
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