A young captain in Virat’s mould
After leading the Under-19 team to victory in the Asia Cup, Delhi boy Yash Dhull is expected to bring back the trophy from the ongoing Under 19 World Cup despite coming down with Covid-19 in the middle of the tournament
When West Delhi boy Yash Dhull was named as captain of the India Under-19 World Cup squad on 19 December 2021, his family and friends were ecstatic. Dhull was also named as the captain for the U-19 Asia Cup, where he led the side to victory. India defeated Sri Lanka in a one-sided contest by nine wickets.
No one was surprised at Dhull being selected as captain when the squad was announced. Dhull has in the past led Delhi U-16 and Delhi U-19 sides. He is known as a classy batsman in Delhi circles, he demonstrated his ability with the willow in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy for Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) as he scored the most runs in the tournament; topping the batting charts by scoring 302 runs in five games at a stunning average of 75.5.
Fourteen years ago, another Wesh Delhi boy, Virat Kohli, who also went onto become one of the most successful captains of the senior team, led India to victory in 2008 in Malaysia. Yash, therefore, had big shoes to fill. India has a rich history in the U-19 World Cups, they are the most successful side in the tournament having won four times. In the last tournament, held in South Africa, they were the runners up.
On the eve of the first match, India’s U-19 coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, on being asked why Dhull was chosen to lead India in the marquee event, said that a good leader has to command respect from the other team members and Dhull gets that respect. Kanitkar further added that he thinks that Dhull has the capability to take tough calls and that he backs himself. He also said that Dhull is a very instinctive captain.
Dhull’s leadership qualities were on full display when India took on South Africa on 15 January in their first game of the tournament. Yash came in to bat at 11-2, when the team had lost both its openers and played a captain’s knock of 82 runs in 100 balls to ensure India reaches a respectable total. His captaincy skills were evident when the Indian side came into the field with his out-of-the-box field settings and smart bowling changes. India won the first game by 45 runs.
India were to face Ireland in their second game on 19 January, but even before a ball was bowled, there were reports that four of India’s players tested positive for Covid-19. India’s captain Yash Dhull was one of the four players.
Yash’s mother Neelam Dhull, talking to Patriot, said that they had switched on the TV for the game and were expecting Dhull to come out for the toss but when they didn’t see him, they thought at first that he was being rested for the game. It was later that they got to know that Dhull was found to be Covid positive.
Dhull’s father Vijay Dhull added that on the game day, Dhull had indeed told them in the morning that he was going to play, it was only later in the evening when they got to know that Dhull had contracted Covid. “We talked to him in the evening on a video call; he didn’t look too tired but had a sore throat, other than that he didn’t have any major symptoms.”
How hard was it to hear the news of Yash getting infected with Covid-19? “We thought, how could it possibly happen? But we soon gathered ourselves as Yash did not show any major symptoms. We told Yash that he should drink a lot of warm water and eat nutritious food. We ensured that we talked to him twice a day when he was in isolation.”
It helped that the BCCI took proper care of the players infected with the virus. “The BCCI arranged a Zoom call with us, wherein VVS Laxman assured us that the kids are taken care of,” says Vijay Dhull. “We didn’t worry much as we knew that he was fine. He spent his time watching other games on TV and catching up on movies.”
Rajesh Nagar, Yash Dhull’s coach at Delhi Capitals cricket academy in Bal Bhawan International School, Dwarka, told Patriot that he was a bit tense when he heard that Yash was infected with Covid. “The U-19 World Cup comes only once in a cricketer’s career so I was a bit disappointed, Yash too was a tad disappointed that he wasn’t going to play but he doesn’t express his feelings much.”
On being asked how he motivated Yash during this phase, Rajesh said, “We didn’t need to do much, Yash is quite strong mentally. He knew he was going to miss a couple of games and he would be back after that so he stayed in a positive frame of mind. We did some counseling but Yash did not really go into a shell.”
Yash Dhull was back leading the side against Bangladesh in the quarter-final and it didn’t look like he had taken time off the game at all. Rajesh told Patriot that even VVS Laxman praised Dhull in the practice session before the Bangladesh game and told him that it didn’t look like he had recently been a Covid-19 patient. Dhull played a fluent Innings of 20 runs against Bangladesh in the quarter-final and helped Team India win the game by five wickets.
India U-19 will next face Australia in the semi-finals on Wednesday. Yash’s parents and his coach want Yash to return with the trophy now.