Updated: January 23, 2022 2:31:20 pm
Raj Angad Bawa was only five when he lost his grandfather, Tarlochan Bawa, a member of the Indian Hockey team that won the 1948 Olympic Games in the United Kingdom.
Raj Angad, 19, has the faintest memory of his late grandfather – the evening stroll in their backyard in Chandigarh.
“I don’t have many fond memories of my grandfather because I was a kid when he died. But I have heard his stories from my grandmother and my father, which will stay with me forever,” Raj Angad Bawa told The Indian Express from Tarouba in Trinidad and Tobago, before their final group B match against Uganda at the ongoing ICC Men’s U-19 World Cup.
Tarlochan scored two goals in the 1948 Olympics; one in the 4-0 win over Great Britain in the final, earning Independent India its first gold medal.
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“Whenever I see that gold medal, it gives me goosebumps, I can only imagine how important achievement it must have been, back then,” said Raj.
Even though Raj has very few memories of his grandfather, he has seen his father Sukhwinder Bawa hone the skills of several cricketers, including the likes of former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and pacer VRV Singh.
“I am proud to be a Bawa. Playing a part in carrying such a rich legacy forward is an honour, but at the same time, I always knew I have big shoes to fill. I just hope I would do justice to my family name.’
Raj, a fast-bowling all-rounder, has not put a foot wrong at the U-19 World Cup. He bagged a four-wicket haul against South Africa in the first match and followed it with a crafty 42 against Ireland. Raj saved his best against Uganda, smashing a 108-ball 162, including 14 fours and eight sixes. During that innings, he became the highest individual scorer in a single innings for India, surpassing Shikhar Dhawan’s 155 against Scotland in Dhaka at the 2004 U-19 World Cup.
Interestingly, Raj bowls with his right arm but is a southpaw batter. He switched his batting stance after watching Yuvraj Singh from close corners.
“I used to watch Yuvraj practise at my father’s coaching centre. When I first picked up the bat maybe I was trying to imitate him, and it stuck with me,” said Raj, who idolises Yuvraj Singh, and dons the same jersey number 12.
“I picked up No 12 because of several reasons. My late grandfather’s birthday is on February 12. My idol Yuvraj also used to wear jersey No 12, as his birthday is on December 12. I celebrate my birthday on November 12,” said Raj.
Growing up, theatre and dance took precedence over cricket.
“He was never into the cricket. I had given up all the hopes. I thought, he will become an actor,” recalls father Sukhwinder.
Raj’s love affair with cricket started when he first visited the Dharamshala stadium with his father.
“I was a coach, and we were playing some local tournaments. After our practice at the Dharamshala Stadium, he came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want to become a cricketer.’ That was the happiest day of my life,” recalls Sukhwinder.
Sukhwinder played hockey for Haryana junior team and was even selected for India U-19 camp in 1988. His dream of playing cricket ended due to a slipped disc injury, and at the age of 22, he became a coach.
“I was posted at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Gurugram when I first saw Raj bowling pace. He must be 11. What impressed me was that he bagged five wickets in the first match, bowling with the leather ball. I was thrilled,” said the 54-year-old.
“For a year, I worked on his landing feet. His action was a bit injury prone, and once it was fixed, I told him ‘listen, it’s time your bowling takes a back seat, and you focus on your batting’”.
Raj, who calls himself a genuine all-rounder, credits his father for his development.
“My father knew about my cricket. He somehow knew that fast bowling came naturally to me, so he wanted to focus on my batting. Initially, I was focused only on batting and started bowling off-spin.
“I started bowling fast again in the Punjab U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy camp. I never told him that I’d started bowling fast again, but I eventually got caught,” he said.
Sukhwinder feels his son can become a good all-rounder, but he must remain disciplined.
“I was a student of DP Azad, his mantra of coaching used to be discipline and punctuality. Azad sir used to hate if someone would turn up late during the training session. I have picked up these things from Azad sir and had instilled his valuable lessons into Raj’s cricket. Hopefully, he will remain focused and will represent the senior national team for a long time,” he said.
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