India’s under-19 World Cup winning captain Yash Dhull is an emerging star on the Indian cricketing horizon.
Soon after leading India to the Youth World Cup victory last year, he was drafted into Delhi’s first-class team where he acquitted himself well in his debut Ranji Trophy season. In three Ranji games in the 2021-2022 season, he scored 479 runs at an average of 119.75 with two centuries and a double century while opening the batting. These performances led to comparisons with Virat Kohli, the former India captain, who built on his under-19 captaincy success at the 2008 World Cup by bursting into the Indian team and rising to become one of the world’s greatest batsmen in the current era.
But the 2022-23 season, which concluded recently, was a chastening experience for him. He was picked to lead the side — the decision surprising some experts — and not only did he fail to lead his team into the knockouts, he also struggled with the bat, scoring 270 runs in 10 innings of six games at an average of just 27.
Dhull did not open the innings till the last match of the season in which he scored 72, his highest score and one of the only two fifties he scored in the season.
But as the 20-year-old says in an exclusive interview with Patriot, he is still in the process of learning the ropes and is seeking help from his seniors.
Q: How do you look at your first stint at captaincy of the Delhi Ranji team?
A: I became the youngest captain of Delhi and for me, this was a new experience — to play among the seniors [as a leader]. Everyone supported me in my captaincy. It was a new experience and I would like to continue doing well for my team, my state.
Q: What were the learnings as captain?
A: There was a lot to learn for me. Because I had a lot of senior players around me and they all were teaching me how to do different things during different situations. They taught me how to read the game and what the situation is demanding [at a particular time]. You get that experience only after playing.
Q: Last season you did exceptionally well with the bat. This season, runs have been a bit hard to come by? Was it the pressure of captaincy?
A: No, that is not the case. Captaincy is basically demanding only on the field when your team is bowling. But during the time of batting, I didn’t feel the pressure of captaincy at all. Ups and downs in performances keep happening. I will move forward only after learning from these ups and downs in my career.
Q: But what caused the dip in your batting form? Was it an error or flaw in technique?
A: No, I don’t think so. Every player faces a time where the form dips. How you learn from that and come back from it and become better is what is important. It is about all that phase [of bad form]. The shorter this phase is, the better it is for you in future.
Q: Last season, you succeeded as an opener. But this season, you did not open except in the last game of the season when the team was already out of the competition?
A: It is not that I did not want to open. I can play in any position. But it all depends on the situation. It (My opening) did not apply in that (earlier) situation perhaps. But I felt that I can play positively and fearlessly when opening, so I decided to open in the last match.
Q: But it was a bit surprising considering that your success last season came at the top of the order and still you decided to come lower down the order?
A: Everyone makes mistakes. That is what I am trying to say. I am still learning. I have to learn things. I am learning how to handle, how to play in different situations, what do I have to do with my batting. I am learning these things from [senior] players around me.
Q: Any changes in batting for the next season?
A: No. I play my natural game, whatever I have been playing. I just play that.
Q: What’s up next?
A: I am practicing for the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL)season. I am in the Delhi Capitals camp in Kolkata. This is the initial stage of the camp. I am getting to learn a lot. The upcoming season is very important. I am preparing and practicing for it.
Q: At this stage, when you are so young, how tough is it to handle all three formats?
A: Main thing is to maintain fitness. But actually, we are playing the game only because we enjoy playing. We are enjoying the game, so it doesn’t weigh on us. It is only when you don’t enjoy the game that playing becomes a pressure and seems to weigh on us. When you enjoy something, you feel like doing it. No matter what the format is. Whether we play the days’ format, T20 or IPL, the more we enjoy, the better the results we get and we also have fun.
Q: How challenging it is to switch from one format to the other, like in your case, you have to suddenly switch from four-day game to T20?
A: It all depends on how well you are prepared mentally. How quickly you can switch off and switch on. How do you implement yourself to situations. We have already practiced it for these things from before. In the [BCCI-organised] emerging camp [ahead of the domestic first-class season] too, we had done this – we’d play with white ball for a week and then suddenly switch to red ball for the next week. So, we have had these learnings and we are bringing them into daily routines, to ensure we don’t face difficulty.