The little-known United Sports Ground in the suburbs of Kalyan found itself on the world cricket map, albeit briefly, as 15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade scored an unbeaten 1009 — the first ever batsman to reach a four-figure mark — during an inter-school tournament here.
“I wanted to score big runs. I remember my coach telling me that no one will take me in the Mumbai team if I score these hundreds and two-hundreds. After all, I don’t play on the Mumbai circuit. The facilities are not that great here but at least this knock will help me get recognition and a chance to represent Mumbai,” Pranav said.
As news spread that he could cross the 1,000 run-mark Tuesday, local politicians and more than 2,000 people started making their way to the ground.
The rectangular ground at Wayle Nagar in western Kalyan, 57 km from Mumbai and three stations down the line from Dombivli — where Ajinkya Rahane comes from — has short boundaries on the off and leg-side, not more than 30 yards. Most opponents, including bowlers, were younger than Dhanawade — some as young as 11.
The mismatch in age between the players of K C Gandhi Higher Secondary School, which Dhanawade represented, and Arya Gurukul was because senior players of the latter were not allowed to play in the Bhandari Cup inter-school tournament since examinations were round the corner.
Even then, the sheer numbers make for mind-boggling reading. Dhanawade, the son of an autorickshaw driver, faced just 323 deliveries. The relatively smaller dimensions of the ground — the straight boundary being the longest at 60 yards — perhaps contributed to the 129 fours and 59 sixes hit by Dhanawade, and the strike rate of 312.38. On two occasions, windows from a nearby building were smashed.
The hitter had a surprising choice of favourite cricketer. “Brad Haddin. I’m a wicket-keeper batsman and I like Haddin,” he said.
Dhanawade remained unbeaten when his team declared at 1465. The second highest scorer was opener Akash Singh, who struck 173. After the team declared at 1465, Arya Gurukul were out for 56, to go with their first innings score of 31.
Dhanawade set a world record for individual score in cricket on Monday itself when, at end of the day’s play, he was on 652 not out, going past A E J Collins’ 628 not out for Clark’s House against North Town in 1899 in the UK.
Dhanawade survived nine close calls — seven catches and a couple of stumpings. For the young bowlers of Arya Gurukul, it was a day they would want to forget. The medium pacers’ figures read like T20 match totals: Sarth Salunke (284 in 20 overs), Pratik Bedekar (241 in 18 overs), Ayush Dubey (350 in 23 overs), Harshal Jadhav (281 in 18 overs).
There was also a pitch invasion as thousands assumed the tea break to be the end of day’s play and ran onto the field. Eager media rushed for the first byte even before Dhanawade could remove his pads. Local politicians thrust bouquets at him, and vague promises of cash prizes were made.
Soon, an autorickshaw arrived near the dressing room, with a loudspeaker fixed on its roof, blaring music to which people started dancing. His father was mobbed by his fellow autorickshaw drivers, who came armed with India flags.
Two police vans turned up to “provide security” to the boy, who was locked inside the club’s office for some time. “Let him rest,” they told people who lined up to meet him.
Asked how he felt, the he could only say: “Everyone is asking this. I’m going mad.”
Among those who congratulated Dhanawade was Sachin Tendulkar. “Congrats #PranavDhanawade on being the first ever to score 1000 runs in an innings. Well done and work hard. You need to scale new peaks!,” Tendulkar tweeted.