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Is Yash Dhull the next big thing in Indian cricket?

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 17, 2022 21:57 IST
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IMAGE: India's Under-19 World Cup winning captain Yash Dhull started his journey from being among the boys with a muscular hundred -- 113 off 150 balls -- against a good Tamil Nadu side on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy. Photograph: Yash Dhull/Instagram

"Sir, only if I work hard will I play elite cricket," said Yash Dhull while describing how life changes after an Under-19 World Cup win, with a heady cocktail of fame, adulation, money and hanger-ons capable of sending a young mind into a tailspin.

 

But on Thursday, at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati, Dhull started his journey from being among the boys with a muscular hundred -- 113 off 150 balls -- against a good Tamil Nadu side on the opening day of the Ranji Trophy.

Dhull doesn't have the swagger that West Delhi's steely 18-year-old Virat Kohli had during those early conversations nor the spunk which made St Stephen's and Modern School (Barakhamba) alumnus Unmukt Chand the toast of the nation back in 2012.

With his golden ear studs, Manjot Kalra had a rock-star appearance but one look at Dhull and he would seem like a person happy to disappear in a crowd and then suddenly come out owning the stage, like it has always belonged to him.

The pull shots that he played off 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 time and again, against spinners Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore and Baba Aparajith.

At 97, he got a reprieve and, as they say, fortune does favour the brave as he completed a ton on debut, just like another U-19 World Cup winning captain Prithvi Shaw. Eerily, the opponent is also the same -- Tamil Nadu.

Is he the next big thing? Too early to say, but he does tick all the boxes when it comes to first-class cricket and the transition seemed seamless.

But in the last two weeks, the 19-year-old Delhi man hardly got any time to comprehend how life has taken a complete 180-degree turn. Before he could be hounded for that 100th sound bite or requested for selfie number 100th, he was on his fifth flight in 72 hours -- with the Delhi senior team.

He had travelled from Antigua to Ahmedabad for a BCCI felicitation and next morning, he was back in Delhi where his school Bal Bhavan wanted him to show up. He went home, had a shower and the next thing he knew, he was in Guwahati.

Just to add to the degree of 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 any red-ball.

"We had two options. Either we bench the kid or we play him wherever a slot is available. We needed an opener and he was told he needs to open. He is not an opener but immediately agreed. These are also traits that you look in a cricketer," Delhi selector Chaitanya Nanda saidI when asked about Dhull's rise.

Nanda also spoke about how there was a bit of a debate whether Dhull should be fast-tracked into the team as an opener. Along with senior chairman of selector Ashu Dani (former opener), he was hellbent on having him in the XI.

"Our president Rohan Jaitley also supported us when there was a slight opposition as to draft him as specialist opener," Nanda informed.

"You don't groom players by putting them in the bench. You have to play them. He is a No. 3 player and so opening isn't a bad option for him. Yes, he will have his failures and  teams will start reading him better and more experienced first-class bowlers will have his measure.

"That's when we as selectors and also elders need to stand by him and help sail through that phase," Nanda said.

One of the things that struck the senior selectors was how people spoke highly about Dhull's attitude when he made the state U-19 grade.

"He is a very sorted boy. He might not come across as eloquent but the job he has to do, he has full skills.

"Also when we used to enquire discreetly about boys, most of the time we would hear that Dhull is a team-man, who stands for other boys and always ready for any responsibility in crisis. We had him in our Ranji probable and then he got national call-up," he recalled.

For the DDCA, Manjot Kalra, an U-19 World Cup winner and final match centurion, is an example of how things could go wrong if not handled properly. Kalra is now approaching mid 20s (he was accused of age-fraud) and is yet to make his first-class debut.

Nanda gave a very interesting insight as to how timing becomes very important.

"Look at 2012 Under-19 World Cup (Chand's tournament) and the final was played in August and there was two months left for first-lass season to begin. In 2018 when Manjit played, it was in February and season would end in a month. Here, Yash won the World Cup and then before he could think, he was playing Ranji Trophy.

"By the time he comes out of the bubble (post IPL), interaction with coaches, senior players would also help him grow. He is keen to learn," said Nanda.

One can safely say that Dhull won't write any book nor would he be seen sharing screen space with a Rohit Sharma or a Jasprit Bumrah in a TV commercial just yet.

It won't be an easy ride but Delhi boys have never had easy journeys in Indian cricket.

Dhull has just started his journey. To begin with, it looks good.

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