During a selection trial at the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association’s (MPCA) academy five years ago, former India batsman Amay Khurasia, the chief coach, picked a boy whom no selector was willing to give a second look due to his wayward bowling.
The credentials of Khurasia, the mainstay of MP’s batting for over a decade, were questioned as he fought for Avesh Khan. The only one chosen from among the 550 boys at the trials, Avesh vindicated the faith shown by Khurasia by becoming India’s pace spearhead at the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
Avesh finished as India’s highest wicket-taker (12 wickets at an average of 15.08) in the tournament where the three-time champions lost to West Indies in the final on Sunday. Khurasia, who had come under fire then, is delighted that he spotted the talent through the boy’s ungainly bowling.
“He was 13 then, tall and skinny. Avesh bowled some 13-15 balls at the trials. The first six touched the leg-side mesh of the net. When I told him to concentrate on off-stump, his next few deliveries almost touched the off-side mesh of the net. But he was definitely a little quicker than the others and that caught my eye. When I pitched for him, my fellow selectors criticised me, but I stood firm and Avesh was the lone guy selected from among 550 probables,” says Khurasia.
“It was a statistic trial but it turned out to be an eye trial in which Avesh got lucky. Thankfully, the MPCA had given me a free hand to do what I wanted.”
That Avesh shouldered the responsibility of leading the bowling in the U-19 World Cup does not surprise Khurasia, who says he always had the courage to play the leader. “Once he began showing his talent, he always had the attitude to lead from the front. Even in Ranji Trophy, he is more or less our bowling captain who likes to fight it out. That is something which has made him stand out in the World Cup. But this is just the start. I’d like to see him go further in his career.”
Although his height and strength allow Avesh to hit the deck, Khurasia’s constant advice has been to pitch it up. “At this level, he is touching speeds of 130-140 kph, and batsmen rarely react to that pace. I want to see how he bowls when he gets thrashed from that line. That is why I tell him to pitch a little up as any ball that rises from slightly ahead of good length will be very difficult to play.”