Many sportspersons capture our imagination with their skill, strength and competitive spirit. A few others inspire us with their ability to overcome personal adversity and contretemps.

Only very few manage to totally floor us both with their sporting talent and through their spirited backstory.

Ganesan Periyasamy, the pace bowler from a nondescript village near Salem, who was adjudged the player of the tournament in the recently concluded Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) tournament, is a sportsperson whose saga is sure to make it to most motivational speakers spiel in the coming days.

The young 25-year-old pace bowler, who has a Lasith Malinga-like action that has earned him the easy sobriquet "Slinger from Salem", was the highest wicket-taker in the TNPL with 21 scalps — a number that has never been achieved before in TNPL history.

In the nine matches he played, he had at least a wicket in every one of it. In the final, Periyasamy put in a bravura performance with a five-wicket haul (5/15) and helped his team Chepauk Super Gillies win the title in grand style.

As it happened, before he was picked up by Super Gillies in the 2019 player draft, Periyasamy had almost quit the sport due to the trying circumstances he found himself in.

Hailing from an obscure village named Chinnappampatti, situated 33 kilometres west of Salem, Periyasamy was born into a poor family, that included four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Aside from his indigent circumstances, Periyasamy also had handicap: a bout of smallpox partially blinded his right eye.

Since then it was his affected eye that caught everybody’s attention. It hurt young Periyasamy so much he went into a shell, had very few friends and even dropped out of school.

But even during those troubled times, he found succour in playing tennis ball cricket and bowling.

“They talked about my eye and I stopped getting along with people. I dropped out of school. I studied only till seventh standard. I reared cattle and played tennis ball cricket,” he recalls his past without any rancour.

“Tennis ball cricket gave me a different feeling. That gave me an identity. That’s why I never let go of playing cricket,” he adds.

It was his passion for the game that led him to take part in the Under-19 state selection trials. He got selected and did play a few matches at the district-level for three years. But a bout of typhoid knocked him down and it was in this phase that he almost gave up the game. He began working at a saree weaving company to help his family tide over penury.

As it happened, it was around this time that Periyasamy also ran into coach Jayaprakash and another fast bowler from  Salem, Thangarasu Natarajan.

Jayaprakash, who runs two teams, was instrumental in shaping up Natarajan’s rise. The left-arm pacer, who was picked up for Rs 3 crore by Kings XI Punjab in the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction, too had humble beginnings as his father was a daily wage powerloom worker and his mother ran a roadside eatery.

A chance meeting at the village saloon with Jayaprakash became the turning point in Periyasamy’s life.

“I met Jayaprakash sir in a saloon. I am usually too shy to initiate a conversation with anybody. He asked me why I wasn’t playing, I told him I had to take a break of three years because of typhoid. I used to get severe knee aches and I wasn’t able to run properly. I used to get tired very easily. I told him was going through a hard time,” he says.

However, Jayaprakash was impressed with what he had heard about Periyasamy's bowling, and so he decided to back him.

"He took me to the hospital. He used to  come and pick me up by 4 am and take me to hospital in Coimbatore and drop me back home. It was not his job to do all that, yet he did it. He did not expect anything in return. He wouldn’t even let me thank him. He said it was his duty to take care of me and my duty was to play. He’d say that he does all this because I have the talent. He never got a rupee from me,” Periyasamy is quoted as saying.

Natarajan also chipped in with whatever he could. He got Periyasamy his shoes and attire. But Periyasamy, given his background and situation, was constantly plagued by self doubt. He was also riven by a complex that he was unable to speak in English. He felt insecure and wanted to chuck it all. But Jayaprakash and Natarajan counselled the young fast bowler and helped him get back his confidence.

“Six months back, Jayaprakash sir and Natarajan came and talked to my family. They asked my family to give me a period of six months. They promised that they will take care of me and my family wouldn’t have to spend a penny for me. And that is how I came here (in TNPL),” he recalls.

Periyasamy’s journey in 2019 TNPL is a testimony to his new-found self belief and, of course, his talent to deliver missile-guided yorkers that are so paramount to the shorter formats of the game. Periyasamy is already being talked of as the next possible star of the IPL.

Periyasamy is not ready to think of that and put pressure on himself. Right now, he is content to bask in new spotlight he finds himself under. His just wants to retain that one-eyed passion for the game.

"As for as future goes, I am just looking to bowl well and improve my pace further. The rest is in the hands of God," he says philosophically.