New Delhi: “Sir, only if I work hard will I play elite cricket,” said Yash Dhull as he described how life changes after a U-19 World Cup victory, with an intoxicating cocktail of fame, admiration, money and followers that young mind in a downward spiral.
But on Thursday, at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati, Dhull started his journey from a among the lads with a muscular hundred – 113 from 150 balls – against a good Tamil Nadu side on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy.
Dhull lacks the swagger that the steely 18-year-old Virat Kohli of West Delhi had during those early conversations, nor the guts that Unmukt Chand, alumnus Unmukt Chand, of St. Stephen’s and Modern School (Barakhamba) in 2012 had to toast. made of the nation.
With his gold studs, Manjot Kalra had a rock star look, but one look at Dhull and he would seem like someone who is happy to disappear into a crowd and then suddenly come out with the stage, as if it has always been his.
The pull shots he played against Tamil Nadu pacers M Mohammed, Sandeep Warrier and Saravanakumar P showed that he was well prepared. Anything short or wide was punished and he also used his feet well, stepping out again and again against spinners Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore and Baba Aparajith.
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At the age of 97 he was given a reprieve and as they say luck favors the brave as he completed a ton on his debut just like another U-19 World Cup winning captain Prithvi Shaw. Strangely enough, the opponent is also the same: Tamil Nadu.
Is he the next big thing? Too early to say but he ticks all the boxes when it comes to first-class cricket and the transition seemed seamless.
But in the past two weeks, the 19-year-old from Delhi has barely had time to understand how life has taken a complete 180-degree turn. Before he could be hounded for that 100th sound bite or requested for selfie number 100, he was on his fifth flight in 72 hours – with the Delhi senior team.
He had traveled from Antigua to Ahmedabad for a BCCI congratulation and the next morning he was back in Delhi, where his school Bal Bhavan wanted him to show up. He went home, took a shower and before he knew it he was in Guwahati.
To add to the difficulty, he was selected for India U-19 even before BCCI’s U-19 red ball tournament Cooch Behar Trophy had started. So he hadn’t played a red ball.
“We had two options. Either we put the kid on the couch or we play him where a slot is available. We needed an opener and he was told to open. He’s not an opener but agreed right away. These are also qualities you see in a cricketer,” Delhi selector Chaitanya Nanda told PTI when asked about Dhull’s rise.
Nanda also spoke about how there was a bit of a debate about whether Dhull should be included in the team soon as an opener. Along with senior selector chairman Ashu Dani (former opener), he was determined to have him in the XI.
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“Our President Rohan Jaitley also supported us when there was a slight opposition to draft him as a specialist opener,” Nanda informed.
“You don’t trim players by putting them on the bench. You have to play them. He is a number 3 player so opening is not a bad option for him. Yes, he will have his failures and teams will come to read him better and more experienced first-class bowlers will have his benchmark.
“That’s when we as selectors and also the elderly have to assist and help him sail through that phase,” said Nanda.
One of the things the senior selectors noticed was how people spoke highly of Dhull’s attitude as he made it to the state’s U-19 class.
“He is a very sorted boy. He may not come across as eloquent, but the job he has to do he has all the skills.
“Even when we used to discreetly inquire about guys, we usually heard that Dhull is a team man, standing up for other guys and always ready to take any responsibility in crisis situations. We probably had him in our Ranji and then he got a national call up,” he recalls.
For the DDCA, Manjot Kalra, a U-19 World Cup winner and centurion of the last game, is an example of how things can go wrong if not handled properly. Kalra is now approaching his mid-twenties (he was accused of age fraud) and has yet to make his first-class debut.
Nanda gave a very interesting insight into how timing becomes very important.
“Look at 2012 U-19 World Cup (Chand’s tournament) and the final was played in August and there were two months left to start the first season. When Manjit played in 2018, it was in February and the season was due to end in a month. Here Yash won the World Cup and before he could think, he was playing Ranji Trophy.
“By the time he comes out of the bubble (after IPL), interacting with coaches would also help him grow. He is eager to learn,” says Nanda.
It’s safe to say that Dhull won’t write a book just yet, nor will he share screen space with a Rohit Sharma or a Jasprit Bumrah in a TV commercial.
It won’t be an easy ride but Delhi boys never had an easy ride in Indian cricket.
Dhull has just started his journey. For starters, it looks good.
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