By Kapil Patwardhan
A while back, monumental knocks and ceaseless aggregation of runs seemed to have become the preserve of Mumbai teenagers. Tales of double and triple centuries achieved on the crowded maidans of the state capital have wowed people since the time a young Sachin Tendulkar began to make his mark. Most recently, impressive scores have been recorded by the likes of Armaan Jaffer, Prithvi Shaw and the feisty Sarfaraz Khan.
However, for the past couple of years, a diminutive Pune boy has taken it upon himself to give this city a taste of big scores, that too with impressive consistency. Hrishikesh Motkar, a 15-year-old Mangalwar Peth resident, has taken the cricketing circuit in the city by storm.
The left-handed opener, who plies his trade for the Cadence Cricket Academy, has scored six centuries — including two double-centuries — so far this year.
Motkar electrified the recently concluded Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) under-16 Invitational cricket tournament by smashing an unbeaten 200 and an unbeaten 252 in consecutive matches. The wiry southpaw finished the tournament with five centuries and scored over a thousand runs in eight matches. He slammed a fluent century in the final, leading his side to the trophy.
One of the biggest supporters of the 15-year-old is his mentor and father Abhay Motkar. A teacher by profession, Motkar keeps statistics of every match played by his son. A spreadsheet is continuously updated to track his record and note down remarks regarding his performances. The centuries and half-centuries’ columns require constant updating, with Motkar scoring 22 centuries and 49 half-centuries in 291 matches played so far.
Key to Motkar’s radical rise was his exposure of playing against older boys. At the age of four, Motkar played against six-year-old children. Since then, the trend was set with Motkar now practicing against 19-year-olds as well as a few Ranji trophy bowlers. “Playing against experienced, older boys has helped Hrishikesh to learn quickly and that is why he is finding it easy in his own age group,” says his father.
It was the consistency in his performances that saw him picked for the MCA under-19 Invitational cricket tournament as well. Motkar proved that he is ready to play in a higher age-group, scoring 85 runs in the round of 16 and helping his side reach the final of the competition. “The under-19 bowlers are physically bigger and give away fewer loose balls. You really need to concentrate hard and choose your shots carefully. Every match is a tough match to bat,” he says.