Talent emerging out of small towns is a running story in Indian cricket and Aditya Garhwal, the 18-year-old batsman from Sikar district in Rajasthan, has provided the latest chapter.
Garhwal’s exploits came over the week for Rajasthan in the Central Zone U-19 one-day league phase of the Vinoo Mankad Trophy tournament – 765 runs, 38 sixes and two double centuries, after missing another by four runs.
He hammered his second double (212) on Saturday against Vidarbha in Ghaziabad, after two big knocks in Greater Noida. Although Rajasthan did not win the zonal league, they were glad to have discovered a promising talent to spread cheer after the state association’s tussle with the cricket board.
It is as much a story of determination as resources. Garhwal’s father, Narendra, and coach Hitendra Saharan, opted to train the youngster in the small town, around 110 km from Jaipur, instead of heeding the advice of some by packing him off to a big city like Delhi. “When he was 11, his father asked me to take a look. One day I went to his house around noon and saw him batting in the courtyard. I watched him for 2-3 hours, and his dad struggled to get him to stop. I decided to take him under my wings,” Hitendra says. As the small town lacked facilities, Garhwal’s father, who is an engineer and wealthy, decided to go the whole hog and set up an academy.
“He provided me a free plot of land five-six years back and we started the academy.”
As there were houses on either side and the cremation ground straight ahead, it was the only direction in which Garhwal could hit big, developing his ability to hit down the ground, explains the coach.
Hitendra recalls his ward’s first major knock fondly. Sikar were playing against Hanumangarh district. “The venue had thorny grass outside the boundary. He kept hitting sixes and the fielders were forced to fetch the ball from the thorny grass. It was fun to watch them fight over who should fetch it.”
The coach was so sure of Garhwal’s talent that in 2008, when he was dismissed for two in a big match, he handed a 100-rupee note to the bowler, for getting ‘a future India batsman out’.
Aditya says he was below par last year, failing to capitalise on starts. But a meeting with “The Wall” helped transform his game. “Things changed when I went to the National Cricket Academy before the season. I met Rahul Dravid and got useful tips from him. He asked me to back myself and rid myself of self-doubts. The plan was to play till the 35th over and then start hitting. I tried to use the middle overs to collect singles and twos and then start hitting.”