Age: 23, Team: Delhi
Just a day before their son plays his first Ranji Trophy game, Ahlawat, a small pick-up truck driver, and his wife, a guest teacher at a small school, in Panipat, are filled with hopes of a better life. In a short span, Mohit Ahlawat, a wicketkeeper-batsman who had started taking cricket seriously around three years ago, has done enough to move into big leagues. He may not have toiled under the sun for years like most of his teammates, but Ahlawat’s arduous journey from obscurity more than makes up for it. Ahlawat’s potential was first noticed in a local tournament at his hometown Panipat.
As a teenager, he helped his club win a close match and his father, who also played for the same club, was urged by the rest to send his son to the capital. “I remember the day when my father told me to leave Panipat and go to Delhi. He wanted me to pursue cricket seriously,” says Ahlawat.
But money was always a problem. “When my father’s friends began insisting on an everyday basis that he should send me to an academy in Delhi, he knew that finances could pose a problem. But after noticing my passion and the continuous pressure from his peers, he finally sent me,” Ahlawat says.
The decision to leave Panipat for the capital proved to be the trigger to success for the 23-year old. At the club Malik Sports, he ran into Gautam Gambhir’s coach Sanjay Bharadwaj, who paved way for higher success. Impressed with the match-winning ability, and calmness under pressure, Bharadwaj decided to take the boy under his tutelage. Having learnt about Mohit’s financial problems, Bharadwaj gave him a place to stay at his academy. “We have rooms here in the ground. I take care of the boys who are really talented and cannot afford to sustain themselves on their own. I don’t spend on their diet and their living expenses as we have sponsors who help. But I make sure that they get all their meals and are comfortable,” Bharadwaj adds.
“He is disciplined, very innocent and doesn’t care about worldly things,” Bharadwaj says. “Even if he is asked to wear old clothes used by people, he doesnt have a problem.” Good days began to happen frequently for Ahlawat. Runs came in a torrent in the city league and other tournaments but two stellar performances in particular strengthened fast-tracked his case for Delhi selection.
Against Sonnet, LB Shastri were struggling at 70 for 7 in the league game at Okhla when Ahlawat scored a brilliant 158 with the lower order and guided his side to victory. The second performance was even better. His side was chasing 220 against Collage Group and were reduced to 80/6. Ahlawat was on seven when three wickets fell at the other end, reducing his side to 80 for 9. With the final man in, Ahlawat kept his cool and made sure he faced majority of the deliveries thereon. LB Shastri won the game by one wicket, with Ahlawat scoring an unbeaten 137 and his side’s No.11 playing just one ball in the entire innings. “That was a phenomenal performance. He showed that cool and calm approach at the wicket can really help you to overcome extreme situations. And mind you it will his this trait that will make him a great player. ” says Bharadwaj. His wickekeeping skills have obviously helped his selection as it impressed Gambhir. Now, that he has been picked, its time to deliver and ease the concerns of his parents.