Subhash Maidan, the ground where Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s helicopter was to land on Saturday, is a special attraction in Kalyan, about 40 km from Mumbai. Actually, Subhash Maidan is not a ground in the cricketing sense. If a batsman were to hit the ball over the long off boundary, it would go sailing into a wedding pandal occupying one part of the ground. A shot to the mid-wicket boundary would damage the high end cars parked on the ground. And for Dhanawade, the move to use the ground as a helipad this past weekend is just an extension of the apathy that the ground has traditionally faced.
On Saturday evening, Dhanawade and a few budding cricketers were doing stretching exercises at one end of the ground. “Suddenly, this policeman came up and told us to leave. When we requested that we be given three minutes to just warm up, the officer got agitated and took me along with my father to the local police station where the senior inspector was abusive,” says the 17-year-old, speaking to The Indian Express. Coincidentally, it was the same police station where he was among the guests of honour earlier this year for a flag hoisting ceremony. On Saturday, though, it was only after local politicians and media intervened that they were let off. Dhanawade confirms he was not manhandled.
Dhanawade’s father Prashant, an autorickshaw driver, says: “Even a day before this incident, a policeman turned up at the ground around 5 pm when the boys were practising. He said from tomorrow at 5pm, you have to stop playing cricket here. He said they received a complaint that someone had been hurt by a cricket ball. He didn’t even know who the caller was,” says Prashant.
“When he broke the record, everyone was coming forward to help. Here, even his local ground is in a shambles. People drink beer here at night and the boys have to clear the bottles in the day. A young boy had to take stitches after a shard from a glass bottle cut a part of his thigh,” he adds.
Fortunately for Pranav, it is only in the evenings that he comes to practise at Subhash Maidan. “I practise in Matunga and Kalina during the day,” said Dhanawade, who is now a student at R Jhunjhunwala College in Ghatkopar. Things have changed for the 17-year-old, who was a Class X student when he made the mountain of runs, thrusting himself into instant limelight with icons like Sachin Tendulkar praising his feat. “I used to be a very ‘mastikhor’ kid in school and a back bencher. After I returned to school after the knock, I became ‘shaant’. I felt I should behave properly as people were watching me. I remain a backbencher, though,” he says with a smile.
In KC Gandhi School where Pranav studied, he would have students from other classes come to his class to have a glimpse of him, parents of students taking selfies with him after school and teachers asking him to pose with them during school functions. “When students came to ask me for autograph, it felt weird. I have also received over 1,000 friend requests on Facebook from people I don’t even know,” says the Kalyan resident who resides in a chawl some distance from the Kalyan railway station. His celeb status did not extend much to college since he hardly attended lectures owing to sports commitment and hardly any classmate knows about his feat.
In Kalyan though, ask anyone in the area Pranav Dhanawade the cricketer, and they will point you to his chawl. On his home turf, he has become a landmark, literally and metaphorically.