The flight from Mumbai to South Africa was long and tiring for India Under-19 cricketers. The journey to the final was also tough, where they will face Australia in a repeat of the senior men's World Cup final on Sunday. However, his actual journey was many years in the making. Many of these young cricketers left the comforts of their hometowns and the company of their relatives and friends to pursue their cricketing dreams.
Captain Uday Saharan was only 12 years old when he shifted to Punjab's Fazilka district, 80 km away from his home in Rajasthan's Sri Ganganagar district, to get better training facilities. Vice captain Soumya Pandey and his parents moved to a rented house in Rewa, 40 km from Bharatpur in Madhya Pradesh's Sidhi district, so that Soumya could be closer to his cricket academy. Arshin Kulkarni traveled 250 km from Solapur Pune, Fast bowler Raj Limbani traveled 550 kilometers from Dayapar, a village near the Pakistan border in the Rann of Kutch, to Baroda.
Behind them all has been a supportive family or a cricketing tragic father, nursing his broken cricketing dreams. Saharan's father Sanjeev was called Gavaskar of Sri Ganganagar. Unable to pursue a cricket career, he passed BCCI's Level 1 coaching and started his own academy. Even before Saharan was born, he had made up his mind that his son would become a cricketer.
“After passing the Ayurvedic exam, I went to the Udaipur centre. My coach was Arjun Naidu, who was a great player for Rajasthan and Rajputana. Till his last breath he kept telling me that if I had gone to Jaipur, I would have played Ranji Trophy. This was not to happen. But I made sure that my son did not meet the same fate as me,” he says.
Sometimes he had to show tough love. The first time he left 12-year-old Uday for the U14 camp in Mohali, he got a call from his son saying he couldn't stay alone. “For the next few days I kept making the excuse that I would go to meet him tomorrow. I never did. I used to argue with my wife, that's not the reason I sent her away at such a young age,'' he told The Sunday Express.
Similarly, Kulkarni's father Atul, a pediatrician who owns a hospital in Solapur, had no qualms in relocating to Pune so that his son could pursue the cricket dream that he could not. “We are all doctors in our family. I used to play cricket and so did Arshin's grandfather. When I saw the spark in them I immediately decided that I would give them the best facilities. By the grace of God, I could afford it,” says Atul Kulkarni, who is in South Africa.
Limbani's father was not a fan of cricket, but Vasantbhai Patel was troubled to see his son struggling with the harsh climate. The passion in his son's eyes forced him to take Limbani to Baroda, where children from his family went to study. “I have seen him struggling with heat stroke in summer. It is not easy to play cricket in 50 degree Celsius. Even if we tried to stop him, he would never listen. Then I decided to send him to Baroda, where my elder brother Manilal Patel was posted. “Madness has taken him so far and as a parent, I have only supported his passion,” says Kisan Patel.
Behind the rise of each of these cricketers has been their family.
In Beed, Sanjay Dhas, who named his son Sachin TendulkarHe took a loan to build six turf wickets in the famine-stricken town of Beed in Maharashtra, so that his son could face 1,000 to 1,500 balls every day. “People told me that I should take him to Pune. I said no, I will provide them the best facilities in Beed itself,” says Dhas, who works in the health department in the Maharashtra government.
Narendra Kumar Singh, father of opening batsman Adarsh Singh, came to Kanpur from Jaunpur to give good education to his children. He lost his job during the lockdown Mumbai And the family had no option but to go back to their village. But Singh sold a plot so that his son could live here and fulfill his dream.
The role of Naushad Khan, father of Musheer and elder Sarfaraz, is also well known. “Maine hi bol dhi tha unko achha baap chahiye ya achha coach (I had asked both of them at a very young age whether they wanted a father or a good coach),” he recalls.
The journey of these youngsters reached the finals in Benoni, South Africa. But where one journey ends, another begins – in the tough world of competitive international cricket.