Vaidehi Ankolekar, a bus conductor with Brihannamumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) in Mumbai, was worried till last week. Her son Atharva wasn’t able to find a spot in the playing XI for the first two league games of the U-19 World Cup.
Atharva had injured his hand during training on the eve of the first game and was advised a week’s rest. Worried that the news might upset his mother, Atharva hadn’t disclosed the injury. He suggested to his brother to whisk her away for a holiday in Rajasthan. The rationale was that being away from television would ensure his mother didn’t get too worried. Vaidehi says she travelled to Jaipur and Jodhpur with a group of family members, unaware that her son was injured.
“We would speak daily around 10 pm, discuss things like whether he is eating properly but I had no way of knowing about his injury. He hid it. I would of course ask him why he wasn’t playing and he would tell me that he will play the next match,” Vaidehi tells The Indian Express.
Only after the New Zealand game did Atharva share pictures of his injury with his mother saying he had recovered now, that it wasn’t too serious, and he would definitely play the next game. “That’s when I knew,” Vaidehi says.
In the quarterfinal against Australia, Atharva showed his temperament in a vital knock – India were struggling at 144 for 6 and even 200 looked a distant possibility but Atharva dragged them to 233 with an unbeaten 55. In particular, his 61-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Ravi Bishnoi, who made 30, turned the tide.
Vaidehi is now familiar with cricketing jargon and excitedly rattles off, “Did you see how he slogged in the latter stages? I thought even 200 was going to be tough but he batted remarkably. That partnership with Bishnoi helped a lot,” she says.
Atharva’s father Vinod Ankolekar died when he was 10 and Vaidehi took up her husband’s job as conductor in BEST, the state transport organisation, to support her two sons. She returned from work early for the quarterfinal as everyone at the bus depot knew the significance of the day. She says every conversation with her son ends with her asking him to bring the cup back home, as a tribute to her late husband who wanted their son to become a cricketer. On Tuesday, Atharva took a little big step towards achieving his father’s dream – and made his mother happy and proud.
Brief scores: India U-19 233/9 in 50 overs (Yashasvi Jaiswal 62, Atharva Ankolekar 55*; Todd Murphy 2/40) bt Australia U-19 159 all out in 43.3 overs (Sam Fanning 75; Kartik Tyagi 4/24, Akash Singh 3/30) by 74 runs
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