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A Number Four For India?
Swaraj, Kunal and Tejas are three of the 11 from the team that bore the awful brunt of the 1,000-run knock by Pranav Dhanavade. A day after the match that made cricket history, they were back on the ground practising for the next match in the H.T. Bhandari Interschool tournament organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association. The focus this morning is on keeping chins up and not putting catches down.
Pranav Dhanavade, 15, a Class 10 student of K.C. Gandhi High School, Kalyan, made an unbeaten 1,009 over four sessions, hoisting 59 sixes and smashing 129 fours to make a record that simply looks unbreakable at this juncture. Previous records that have been set and broken are by Sarfraz Khan, Arman Jaffer and Prithvi Shaw at 439, 498 and 541 runs respectively at different school tournaments recognised by the cricket association. The small size of the ground and the young opposition B-team of the Arya Gurukul School notwithstanding, Pranav displayed all the qualities of an exceptional player—force, technique, a full repertoire of strokes, attitude and dedication to the game.
“No matter what we bowled, he just hit every single ball for a six or four,” says Tejas Misar, 13, one suffering bowler. “I tried many different kinds, none worked. I am happy that someone from Kalyan has made such a record, but I am upset that it was against us.” The innocence in their pride and disappointment is palpable.
The Arya Gurukul captain, Swaraj Deshmukh, echoes this with air of resignation: “We knew we would not win and were told to consider this like a practice match but no one expected him to make 1,000 runs. He had given a catch when he was on 19 and five others after that, but our players couldn’t hold on to the ball.” Kunal is still despairing over his missed chance: “I had his catch when he was on 957 but I tried to fling it in the air and dropped it.” The laggards get back to practising 100 catches each.
Was Pranav always so good? Was this innings waiting to happen? Yogesh Jagtap, coach of the losing team who also knows Pranav for several years, says:“It was his day through and through. Records are made by those who have luck and capability. There is no doubt about his cricket. He plays all kinds of strokes and has a sound technique. And then he was helped by the fact that we were playing a younger, inexperienced team. He now has to stay focused and not be burdened by the huge expectations.”
Pranav’s father, an auto-rickshaw driver, is aware of the expectations that would stalk his son from now on. “Till yesterday, we struggled to provide for his cricket coaching, but now offers of help are pouring in. Naturally, everyone is expecting him to do well. His bat broke the other day, but now he has a bat signed by Sachin Tendulkar. Pranav is a quiet, strong person. He doesn’t talk much and rarely does anything outside of school and cricket,” he says fondly, adding that he’s reticent even with his relatives.
Pranav’s discomfort with the attention lavished on him was visible on camera, when he answered most questions in a few words. After even bigger rounds of TV studios the following day, he sought shelter from the spotlight in his aunt’s house. He has to start preparing for his Class 10 preliminary exams too. “I am very happy but I am so tired now. Also, I want to focus on my board exams. Of course, I want to continue to play cricket and I’ll do so after exams,” he told Outlook. He adds that he would like to move into the bigger league of training in Mumbai.
The shy prodigy might opt for relative obscurity, but a aureole of fame will surround him for the next few years. Pranav’s father is worried about something else. “Please see where our children play. There is so much talent in Kalyan but children drop out as they cannot afford basic training, and grounds are not maintained for cricket. Can that be done?” If it is, can Pranav’s record be in danger?