All eyes on Dhull!
Earlier this year, Yash Dhull became the fifth Indian skipper and third from Delhi to lead the national cricket team to the under-19 cricket World Cup title.
It is a feat big enough for the Janakpuri lad to be labelled as a promising talent, one who is destined to represent the Indian team in the future.
But the big question is whether he will follow the route of 2008 World Cup-winning skipper Virat Kohli – who has gone on to become one of India’s most commendable players, or the 2012 World Cup-winning skipper Unmukt Chand – who withered away without an international game to his name.
Dhull has matched both Kohli and Chand in terms of performance and capability. These three are the only Indian captains to score a century in the U-19 World Cup. But whose footsteps will he follow when it comes to his trajectory will remain undecided for at least the next two years.
“Dhull has got a very good start. He came back, and the way he scored back-to-back hundreds in Ranji Trophy, and then got picked by an IPL franchise (Delhi Capitals) shows he has potential”, said former India player Mohammad Kaif, who was the first captain to win the under-19 World Cup title for India in 2000, and has played 125 ODIs and 13 Tests for team India.
“Winning a World Cup is a huge thing for the country. It is a big start for a player who is 18 or 19 years old. It’s like you have ticked the first box”, added Kaif. He continues, “The only thing to now see is how hungry he is, how hard he works, how down-to-earth he is, and how he works on the game. He has to show how he maintains his eagerness to improve. He has got a great beginning.”
At the moment, the 19-year-old is in Bengaluru at the National Cricket Academy in an under-23 players’ camp organized by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Rajesh Nagar, Dhull’s coach from his childhood days, says that the player is not too worried about comparisons. “I spoke to him about (the career graphs of) Kohli and Chand, and he said that his journey is different. He said, ‘What I have achieved till now, that is over. I have to look forward.’ This is a new generation, rough and tough. They don’t think too much and aren’t bogged down mentally. He too doesn’t think of failure, he always stays in his zone,” said Nagar. He adds that Dhull has just started and still has a long way to go.
While everyone knows how Kohli has dominated the international cricket scene – going on to become the team India skipper and being on the cusp of breaking Sachin Tendulkar’s record of most ODI centuries – Chand, unfortunately, has not had much luck as he gradually disappeared from the national level cricket field. He struggled in first-class cricket and IPL and found it difficult to make it to the Delhi state team. Now, he has shifted to the United States to play Major League Cricket.
Former India U-19 batsman Shivakant Shukla, who went on to play first-class cricket for Uttar Pradesh, said, “The best player is often picked as the captain of the under-19 side. Ambati Rayudu was special among the rest when I played. Kohli, Chand and Ravikant (Shukla) were the best in their respective batches. That is a platform. But eventually, you have to perform in first-class cricket and IPL to proceed further. Kohli had also scored a lot of runs in first-class cricket. He scored a lot in domestic one-dayers and made it to team India. Many players are not able to replicate under-19 performances in first-class cricket.”
Shivakant added that selectors judge the performance of a player for a year or two. “If he performs, they fast-track. Kohli did that. U-19 is the first test, then first-class cricket is the second Test. U-19 performance gets you preference if you do well in first-class. With Yash Dhull too, he did well in U-19 cricket. He has started well in first-class (Ranji Trophy). This season is very crucial. If he doesn’t do well, he will face trouble as Unmukt Chand did.”
Dhull returned from the under-19 World Cup, where he scored a match-winning century against Australia in the semi-final, and was picked in the Delhi Ranji team. Promoted to the opening batsman position, he made two centuries and one double century. He scored 479 runs in three matches at an average of 119.75.
Kaif said that while runs in first-class cricket are important, how you score those runs is more important.
“It is a 2-3 year process. You have to stay in an IPL team and play Ranji Trophy. You have to try to be a champion player. A lot of players don’t win trophies. You have to show [your worth] by winning trophies. Some players perform but don’t win trophies”, said the star of the 2002 Natwest Trophy final at Lord’s.
“Sometimes, you feel bogged down by the fact that if you score big runs, only then you will get a chance. But 600-700 runs [in a season of first-class cricket] aside, what’s important is the learning phase. Handling difficult conditions, turning track, seaming tracks, chasing, drawing games – all these things are assessed by the selectors.”
Dhull got picked by Delhi Capitals in IPL 2022 but didn’t play a single game. Coach Nagar said that Dhull was told he would play a few matches, but Dhull was benched for the season.
Former India under-19 captain Ravikant Shukla, who led India in the under-19 World Cup in 2006, pointed out that support from the association in terms of facilities and opportunities as well as the player’s mental state determines the career curve.
“The player’s host association needs to give him all the support he needs. Secondly, how he copes mentally is also key. Virat (Kohli) did well. Some people face mental issues and disappear from the picture”, said Ravikant.
Unlike Kohli, Chand struggled in first-class cricket and wasn’t able to fulfill the promise partly because he often got difficult pitches to bat on in home matches for Delhi. That, and his failure to grab opportunities elsewhere – including the Indian Premier League (IPL), sounded the death knell on his career.
One hopes Dhull makes use of the upcoming season – either for India A or his stateside Delhi.
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