U19 World Cup: Atharva Ankolekar’s final of reckoning after IPL miss
Atharva Ankolekar failed to make the IPL short-list but he is now gearing up for the biggest match of his career - the U 19 World Cup final against Bangladesh.Updated: Feb 07, 2020, 08:43 IST
In December last year, Atharva Ankolekar was amongst the 971 registered players available for bidding in the IPL auction. Fresh off his left-arm-spin heroics in the junior Asia Cup final, Ankolekar could not be faulted for dreaming of a IPL ticket. Even a base-price pick at 20 lakhs would have strengthened his case before his mother, a bus conductor who he was trying to convince to quit her job.
He failed to make the auction short-list for a technical reason, not having played List A cricket, an eligibility criteria to make the cut.
The 19-year-old had no option but to dust off his disappointment and channelise his energies towards the next potentially life-changing opportunity, the U19 World Cup.
Ankolekar starred in the U19 World Cup quarter-final against Australia, with a fighting half-century and an economic spell of bowling. He will be stepping out on Sunday for the biggest final of his fledgling sporting career.
“It can be turning point of his life. If India wins this match, he will get a lot of future-scope, and confidence from winning a big final,” says Atharva’s mother Vaidehi, who serves as a bus conductor with Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), Mumbai’s civic transport provider.
After returning from her morning shift, evenings for her are reserved for home-tuitions at her one BHK household.
“He was a little sad that IPL did not happen this year. But IPL comes every year. An U19 World Cup, he will get only once in a lifetime,” she adds.
Every boy in India’s squad of 15 at the world cup have careers to shape, and some, like Ankolekar have hard-edged ambitions forged by real life struggles. Ankolekar’s father was a bus conductor and club cricketer who died when the boy was 10 years old.
Since then, his mother has single-handedly run the family (Ankolekar has a younger brother).
“The fear of failure is huge for someone like Atharva,” says Prashant Shetty, his coach at MIG club, who helped shaped his initial success. “It starts from home, because the family is stretching itself to help the boy’s cricket. There is always a fear of what if it does not work? It’s not like a settled job. You have to keep delivering.”
In Shetty’s view, Ankolekar is a more polished spinner now, after his stints with the National Cricket Academy.
“He may not be the most spectacular of talents but is a street-smart cricketer who has a great understanding of his game,” he says. “He was the one who came in handy in the Australia game. He’s the kind of player a team always needs.”
For Vaidehi “the final is an opportunity to fulfill Atharva’s father’s dreams.”
“He wants me to quit working, because my job is strenuous,” she says.
“But I can’t take a hasty step. His income is based on tournaments he plays, it’s not fixed. Besides, I don’t want to depend completely on him. I also have a 14-year-old, who also plays cricket. I will continue with my job, at least till he becomes a stable cricketer.”
With her uncompromising schedule, Vaidehi has seen her son play in person at a cricket ground only once, in a Mumbai U14 match at Wankhede stadium.
This Sunday, she won’t be seen attending to passengers travelling from Marol depot to Vaishali Nagar in bus no 307. She would be glued to the TV screen at home hoping to see her son give shape to his dreams miles away in South Africa.