“Yeh Dekho pool. Ek dum Maldives jaisa hai (See the pool. It’s like in the Maldives).”

Salman Khan, 22, is giving a virtual tour of his swanky hotel to his family, who live in a small tent in Mumbai’s Cross Maidan, where his father works as a gardener. On normal cricket afternoons, the tent serves as a dressing room for the cricket teams.

Except for his father Idris, none of his family members knew where the Maldives was and why it was famous. But since being signed by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as their net bowler for the current Indian Premier League season, Salman has lived the high life, albeit temporarily.

He says his conversations at home are unusual these days. His father asks him not only what happened at the Nets, but also the hotel he is stationed at. If he met Mahendra Singh Dhoni and what did he tell her.

The iconic hotel at Nariman Point has been a landmark for the Mumbaikars and Salman hadn’t seen it from inside, until CSK performed.

Over the years, his dad has ridden lots and seen many boys become overnight stars and now the family are hoping that Salman can change the family’s fortunes.

Salman Khan’s house in Cross maidan. (PhotoExpress)

“One day I got a call from an official of Chennai Super Kings asking if I can become a net caster for this season. Later I learned that my name was recommended by (Mumbai player ) Tushar Deshpande. I was excited because I will have the chance to learn, otherwise I would only play club cricket,” Salman said over the phone.

CSK was the pioneer in helping net bowlers make the transition to becoming IPL players. Two current franchise players – Mukesh Choudhary and Prashant Solanki – were net bowlers for them until last season, before being roped in at this year’s mega auction.

Salman hopes the same will happen to him. His father always has a line to end his conversations. “Abu phone karke bolta hai achcha kar, tera acha hoga, toh hamara bhi hoga. Bowling mein khush kar dena (Every time my father calls, he tells me to do well, so that something good will happen to them in the future (Make everyone happy with your bowling). I am only saying I will do my best,” said Salman, who has represented Mumbai in Under-23 and Junior cricket.

Equal treatment

The beams of floodlights and loud cheers from Wankhede Stadium reach Salman’s house. He sent photos of himself with Dhoni and other players. Salman bumped into Dhoni and CSK captain Ravindra Jadeja and asked them about his bowling. It took time to earn Dhoni’s trust but, says Salman, at CSK everyone is equal.

Salman Khan’s house in Cross maidan. (PhotoExpress)

“I spoke to Mahi bhai and Jadeja. I want to learn from them, these two months could change my life. I asked Mahi bhai about my bowling. He said, ‘Salman, off-spinner ko T20 mein sab maarne hi dekhte hai, so thoda dimag se dalne ka, jyada sochne ka (in T20s everyone tries to hit the off-spinner, so think about your bowling ). He said he would talk to me after a few games. The franchise treats us like everyone else. We receive the same treatment as everyone else. The environment is superb. »

Back at Cross Maidan, Idris is happy that his son has received a big boost. In his four decades as a gardener, he saw Sachin become Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan become India’s deadly beat-thrower.

“I am very happy for him. I am a small man. I just want him to succeed in life. In 40 years as a gardener I’ve seen people become stars, I just want my son to play good cricket aur apne peacock pe khada ho jaye bus (and stand tall),” hopes Idris.

From Tent to Trident Hotel, Salman now hopes his life will change.