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Never a Dhull moment: India U-19 captain Yash slams ton on Ranji debut

Opening the innings for Delhi, World Cup-winning skipper scored 113 on Day One against Tamil Nadu in Guwahati.

Written by Pratyush Raj |
Updated: February 18, 2022 11:10:59 am
Dhull’s 113 off 150 deliveries (18x4) came after as he was informed only on the eve of the match that he was going to open the innings. (BCCI)

India Under-19 World Cup-winning captain Yash Dhull began his senior cricket career in style as he scored a century on Ranji Trophy debut for Delhi against a quality Tamil Nadu bowling attack on the opening day of the tournament in Guwahati on Thursday.

Dhull’s 113 off 150 deliveries (18×4) came after as he was informed only on the eve of the match that he was going to open the innings. Dhull called up his coach Rajesh Nagar, who trains him at the Bal Bhavan Academy in the capital, to seek advice as he was nervous about the unfamiliar prospect of opening.

“Yash has been a middle-order batter throughout his life. Yes, he has opened in a few games in local Delhi league matches, but it was the first time he has opened in competitive cricket. He was nervous when he called. He wanted to bat in the middle-order; he told me, ‘Sir, I am not ready to open.’ My only advice to him was to just give himself some time at the crease, and the runs would flow,” Nagar told The Indian Express.

After the day’s play, Dhull told this paper, “Apna kaam hai batting karna, opening miley ya No 6 pe. (My job is to bat, whether I get to open or at No 6). This was my first match in the Ranji Trophy and I just wanted to play. I can’t demand where I should bat.”

It was a shaky start for Dhull, as Tamil Nadu pacers Sandeep Warrier and P Saravana Kumar did trouble him with a bit of early movement. There were a couple of streaky boundaries down to the third-man region.

After being asked to bat first by Tamil Nadu skipper Vijay Shankar, Delhi were reduced to 7 for 2, with Warrier sending Dhruv Shorey (1) and Himmat Singh (0) back into the hut.

But the 19-year-old Dhull came to Delhi’s rescue at the Assam Cricket Association Stadium in Guwahati. He took his time initially since the pitch had some movement and the early losses of Shorey and Himmat also proved detrimental.

Dhull grew in confidence after playing a brilliant pull shot off Warrier. He steadied the ship with a 60-run stand for the third wicket with Nitish Rana.

After Rana’s dismissal, Dhull began to dominate and showed his full range of shots. He pulled, cut, drove and swept on both sides of the wicket to ensure Delhi’s run-rate never slackened. He put on a 119-run partnership with Jonty Sidhu (71 off 179 balls; 8×4, 2×6) for the fourth wicket.

“The first 30 minutes were crucial as we had lost two quick wickets,” Dhull said. “I told myself that till lunch I am only going to go hard on the poor deliveries. I stuck to my plan and it worked. The red ball does a bit early on but if you can see off that initial period, batting becomes easier.”

Dhull got to his century in 133 balls when he cut B Aparajith behind point for a couple. The celebration was a jump and fist-pump in the air.

Moments earlier, the youngster had got a reprieve; seamer M Mohammed had Dhull caught on the pull at short midwicket on 97. But even as a dejected Dhull stood staring into the turf, it turned out to be a no-ball. Mohammed finally had his man when he trapped Dhull in front.

Dhull is not the first U-19 World Cup-winning captain who has scored his maiden first-class century against Tamil Nadu. Five years back, Prithvi Shaw, too, had scored a century in his debut Ranji match for Mumbai against Tamil Nadu, in the 2016-17 semi-final in Rajkot. Shaw would go on to lead India to the junior world title a year later. Interestingly, Shaw was also dismissed on a no-ball when he was on 99. Vijay Shankar was the culprit back then.

Positive approach in unfamiliar position

Coach Nagar praised his ward’s positive approach throughout his innings even though he was batting out of his usual position.

“He has carried forward his form from West Indies. Only the colour of the ball has changed, but his style of batting is the same. He batted with a positive mindset, which was good to see,” said Nagar.

“His target is to play for the senior India team in 18 months time. If he keeps working hard, he will certainly attain his goal.”

This is the second time in recent weeks when Dhull has battled against the odds. The India U-19 skipper had tested Covid-19 positive along with five other teammates after scoring a poised 100-ball 82 against South Africa in the opening game of the World Cup. He didn’t play the next two games, but came back against Bangladesh in the quarter-final and steered his team to a five-wicket win with an unbeaten 20. He showed his class in the semi-final against Australia with a run-a-ball 110. The right-hand batter scored 229 runs in four innings at an average of 76.33 and strike-rate of 85.44 in the U-19 World Cup.

 

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Dhull’s mindset was praised by India U-19 coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar after the title triumph. Kanitkar had said: “Dhull has a good head on his shoulders; he read the game situation and what players would want.”

Against Tamil Nadu, the Delhi opener was impressive with his range of strokes and strike rotation. The tempo of his innings showed that he could move up the ladder and play at this level. The ease with which he played the cut and the pull were pleasing to the eyes.

“Cut and pull are his vital areas. He is very good with his back-foot play. While playing these shots, he will never get beaten,” says Nagar, who has trained Dhull since he was 12.

“He can play three or four kinds of cut shots. One is for single to deep point. Then he will bend his back leg and pierce the gap between third man and point for the boundary. The slight adjustment he made to play the cut shot was very impressive.”

Dhull not only got a standing ovation from his Delhi teammates but was congratulated by every single Tamil Nadu player when he was walking back to the pavilion.

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Delhi 1st innings: 291 for 7 in 90 overs (Yash Dhull 113, Jonty Sidhu 71, Lalit Yadav 45 batting; Sandeep Warrier 2/69, M Mohammed 2/40, Baba Aprajith 2/63) vs Tamil Nadu

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