When Ishant Sharma returned to his South Patel Nagar home from India’s tour of Australia in early 2008 after creating ripples with his pace bowling that left even Ricky Ponting hopping, Inderpal Singh Jolly, a car air-conditioner mechanic in a shop 50 paces from India bowler’s house, invited him to dinner.
Ishant obliged since he looked up to Jolly’s cousin, the former India under-19 and Railways cricketer Manvinder Singh Banka in his early days.
Jolly got a picture of Ishant clicked with his two-year-old son Ashveer Singh at his modest home just a minute’s walk from his shop.
Little would he know then that 16 years later, Ashveer would go on to become a cricketer, and knock on the doors of Delhi under-19 team after claiming six wickets for no runs in a trial game.
His figures of 4-4-0-6 are unprecedented even in trial games at the level, according to those who have been following Delhi cricket.
“I have been greatly influenced by Bankaji (who died in January this year due to Covid after-effects). He helped us in every way, from chipping in with financial support to the family to providing me with cricket kit and equipment and introducing me to cricket coaches. I was also inspired by Ishant Sharma and my dad would show me the picture with him. I’d look out for him in the neighbourhood and try to catch sight of him. It’d be only when he’d be in his car,” said the 18-year-old left-arm spinner Ashveer, whose spell on Tuesday helped Super Star beat Pelicans in a low-scoring match.
He had one batsman caught and others either leg-before or bowled. He took at least a wicket in each over.
Father Jolly says, “Banka was my cousin, older by two years. I would tell Ashveer about him and his achievements. I also used to play gully cricket here but not much. Ashveer would be invited by Banka to his home and taught cricket. He introduced us to others. When Banka was there, we faced no problems. Ishant was an inspiration as he was the first in the locality to make India senior team cut.”
Banka got Jolly in touch with former Delhi and Himachal Pradesh first-class player, Abhinav Bali, who has been his guide in the sport since.
“I first saw him play in the Delhi under-16 camp matches at Roshanara Club grounds in the 2021-22 season. He bowled 9-10 overs, conceded only three runs but took no wicket. He was extremely accurate but I just thought that if some field changes are made, he’d get wickets. He was young. After some field changes, he immediately got 3-4 wickets,” recalled Bali, who was a batting coach in the Delhi under-16 camp.
Unfortunately, under-16 cricket that season was called off by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) due to Covid pandemic.
Others have also helped him. Hitesh Sharma, who is head coach of State Bank of India, would invite him to Delhi camp at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds or St Stephen’s in his capacity as a Delhi junior team coach.