When RP Sharma, the coach of Delhi’s famous Young Friends Club went to meet an ailing Ranjan Shorey in the hospital a few years back, he saw the teenager Dhruv Shorey sitting beside the father. Ranjan was fighting a losing battle with cancer then and proudly told Sharma, “Today he has hit a hundred in a match. I am so proud.” The boy was mentally strong, even back then, says Sharma. Ranjan soon succumbed and Dhruv’s life would dramatically change. “Ranjan would have been proud today if had got the chance to see his son score a hundred in Ranji final when the team was struggling.”
Delhi were stuttering against the swing of the impressive teenaged debutant Aditya Thakarey when Shorey absorbed the pressure, repaired the damage along with an enterprising Himmat Singh, and lifted the team from 99 for 4 to 271 for 6. In the scheme of things, with pitch likely to play best on day two, Vidarbha will still hope that they can get ahead in the game but if it were not for Shorey’s unbeaten 123, Delhi could well have been delivered a knock-out punch on the first day itself.
Delhi needed a batsman with patience, skill against the moving ball, the ability to leave the swinging deliveries, and graft it out there. There was a bit of moisture on the pitch, some bounce courtesy the red soil that came in trucks from Mumbai couple of years ago, and Vidarbha chose to bowl after winning the toss.
On air Vijay Dahia, the former player and former Delhi’s coach, was for the decision, recalling how he had once unleashed Pradeep Sangwan on a similar pitch and who picked a seven-for to help the team run away to an easy win.
Mind you, the pitch eased up post noon but Vidarbha bowlers made good use of the conditions.
Especially Thakarey. He is on the stand-by for India’s U-19 world cup team, and if there was any disappointment in missing out, he took it out on the batsmen. Not much pace, say in the late 120’s, but there was enough skill from the wiry lad.
“He has swing in his hands,” Shorey would say later. He bowled a peach of a away swinger to take out the opener Kunal Chandela for a duck in the first over, and nearly yanked out Gautam Gambhir’s off stump with another beauty that swerved in sharply, and kept teasing the batsmen with his impeccable line and length.
The match situation almost liberated Shorey to an extent. He hasn’t always converted his starts this season but he buckled down impressively. Initially, he played as close to the body as possible, and as the sun beat down, he started to flick and drive. He leaned well forward, met the ball pretty early, in front of the pad, and would wrist it away. Against the spinners, he used the feel well, constantly skipping down to drive and nurdle.
The man he has played with from schooldays Himmat Singh was the one who seized the initiative with an aggressive 66 in the second session.
With the young seamers tiring a bit, Himmat attacked with pulls and lofted drives against spinners, and led the momentum change. He fell, though, inside-edging a big nipbacker from Gurbaani and at 204 for 5, the pressure once again piled on Shorey, who handled it well.
A step up in consistency
Vijay Yadav was impressed with what he saw. As a coach, he had picked Shorey in the team a few years back and hoped that confidence out of a hundred in a big game would translate into consistency. “He hasn’t been consistent, and I have always felt he has the game and mental strength to do far more than what he has done so far,” Dahiya told this newspaper. “The biggest strength is that he understands his game well, is patient, knows how to curb strokeplay according to the situations. When I picked him, I saw his qualities against new ball, his patience, and hopefully this knock would help him go one step up in consistency for Delhi.”
One man though never had much doubt that Shorey would turn out to be a consistent scorer for Delhi. Shorey was seven when RP Sharma first saw him being dragged to his academy by his father. “Yaar, Ranjan, he is just a kid, wait for a few years no” And he was told: “No no, let him stand here, soak up the atmosphere, stop a few balls — cricket ki aadat daalte hain!”
That habit caught on, and soon in a few years’ time, he started to train with Sharma. “He used to be an allrounder initially, medium pace and batsman before he started to focus more on batting.” Sharma remembers a disciplined boy who would religiously follow what was taught, and work hard on improving his game.
“I think he got a lot more serious after he turned 16, and probably realised cricket could be his life. Ranjan, who was a cricketer himself, used to coach him, and the runs started to come. The death of his father could have upset him a great deal but luckily I remember his elder brother, a software engineer, took great care of him.”
Forced to find a job after the father’s death, Shorey scrambled here and there, and eventually found a job with Reserve Bank of India. Soon, he also moved to the famous Sonnet club to continue his cricket, and has been earning a name with Delhi for his knocks on slightly difficult tracks and under pressure, batting as an opener, or at No.3.
Last month, against Uttar Pradesh on a grassy pitch at Lahli, he came up with an unbeaten 98 to take Delhi close to UP’s first innings total of 291, which helped them eventually win the game outright. He realises that Delhi needs to kick on and score as many runs as possible on Friday. “The tail can bat, but I would have to score the runs. I am sure they will support me.”
Brief Scores: Delhi 271/6 (Dhruv Shorey 123*, Himmat Singh 66) vs Vidarbha (A. Thakare 2-65, R. Gurbani 2-44) at stumps on Day 1.