His police officer mother didn’t want cricket to be Sachin Dhas’ focus in life but the father knew that he was destined to make it big on the 22-yard strip despite spending a better part of his life training on 11-yard grass tracks that pass for infrastructure in his hometown Beed. The 19-year-old Dhas is among the brightest prospects to emerge in the Indian team that is competing in the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa. He has displayed superb game sense as the team’s designated finisher with 294 runs at an above 100 strike rate.
On Tuesday, his 96-run knock, along with skipper Uday Saharan’s 81, was a key factor in ensuring that India sneaked into the age-group showpiece’s final for a fifth consecutive time.
“You only have half pitches over here (in Beed). Sachin came here with his father when he was four and a half years old and even before going to South Africa, he trained on half turfs,” said an ecstatic Sheikh Azhar, the area’s most famous coach who shaped Dhas’ early years.
For a country which produces phenomenal cricketing talent often not because of, but despite the system, Sachin’s emergence as the next big thing from junior India stable shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Named after the iconic Mumbaikar, who is synonymous with Indian cricket, Sachin is a fan of Virat Kohli, the modern great he has perhaps seen more closely although he wears the number 10 jersey which was owned by Tendulkar in every sense of the word.
“I named him after Sachin Tendulkar when he was born in 2005 because I was a huge fan but he also likes Virat Kohli a lot,” declared his beaming father Sanjay when PTI reached out to him to understand how Sachin was shaped into the promising talent he is now.
“Sachin ka koi dost nahi hai. Main hi uska dost hun. Koi shaadi, koi janamdin kahin gaya nahi. Cricket se focus hate, aisa kuch karne maine diya hi nahi (He has no friends. I am his only friend. I have never allowed him to attend marriages, birthday parties so that his focus never wavers),” he said.
“Uski mummy police mein hain toh discipline hai (His mom is in police and there is discipline in him),” added the proud father, whose phone hasn’t stopped ringing thanks to his son’s achievements at the mega-event.
Sachin bats at No. 6, where either one is expected to go for big shots during slog overs or be the saviour after a top-order collapse like it happened in the semifinal when he arrived at the crease with the score-sheet reading 31/4. What followed was a batting master-class under pressure.
The rolling of wrists while executing pull shots against pacers and the perfect body balance while executing slog sweeps against spinners might look easy to the eye but it has come after years of practice and not enjoying life like other teenagers.
Not to forget the fact that his mother had a high-risk job which kept her away from home due to long and gruelling work shifts.
It was in 2010, when his mother Surekha got a job with Maharashtra Police and is now an Assistant Police Inspector (API).
“As a police officer, her working hours aren’t fixed and she never wanted cricket to be Sachin’s sole focus. We would have our differences but I knew that my son will only become a cricketer,” Sanjay recalled.
“Gradually she understood and now watches his World Cup games on her phone in between duty,” he laughed.
Asked about his practice hours, Dhas senior revealed, “Four hours in the morning and three and half hours in the evening, including gym work. It’s seven and half hours per day. I must give credit to Azhar, his coach. Without him, we wouldn’t have seen this day.” In between discussing his son’s game, Sanjay also gushed about how close he is to him.
“He still sleeps beside me and whether he wants to have a meal at a restaurant or watch a movie, I am his companion,” he said.
In Maharashtra, there was a time when players in and around Pune represented the state team but in recent years, a more open selection process has made it easier for talents emerging from far off corners to make a case for themselves.
“The training part in Beed was certainly tough but not the selection part in age group state teams. Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) has been fair to my son. He performed at every level and he was always picked on merit.” Sachin’s journey won’t stop at the U-19 level and a tough initiation to senior cricket is waiting for him.
“I know he will have to face far tougher tests but I believe by God’s grace and everyone’s good wishes, my son will play for the senior team very soon. We are all waiting for that day,” Sanjay said.
Fow now, he is focussed on grand plans for the Under-19 World Cup final.
“Well, we are planning to put a large screen at the Academy ground where we would watch with the 200 trainees,” Sanjay announced.
Topics mentioned in this article