India’s Cricket Prodigies: Who Will Stay Like Tendulkar?
Open|January 25, 2016

India’s cricket prodigies today are luckier than their predecessors, but who will stay the distance like Tendulkar? 

V. Ramnarayan

Is Pranav Dhanawade, the 15-year-old who scored a world record 1,009 in 323 deliveries in an inter-school match in Mumbai, a prodigy? He perhaps is, but only time will tell for sure, for a prodigy is by definition a person, especially a child or young person, of extraordinary talent or ability, and Dhanawade will have to compete on equal terms with adult cricketers to prove that he is indeed one. His was no mean feat: a thousand runs in any class of cricket is a mind-boggling achievement, even if Dhanawade made his record score against a weak opposition of younger kids on a small ground. He scored his runs at a strike rate of over three runs per ball, while leaving the previous highest individual score in any class of cricket far behind. That was an unbeaten 628, made in 1899 by AEJ Collins in England.

Prodigies in any field of activity may go on to achieve success in their adult years or they may fall by the wayside once they grow up, based on whether they are blessed by the many factors that go into the making of true achievers, luck or ‘grace’ not the least of them. In cricket, with particular reference to Indian cricket, only one—Sachin Tendulkar—has so far stayed the distance after a brilliant debut at a precocious age, though some others like BS Chandrasekhar, S Venkataraghavan and Bishan Singh Bedi, bowlers all, enjoyed successful, long-lasting careers after making their Test debut before they turned 20.

Vinod Kambli, Tendulkar’s partner in a 664-run partnership for Shardashram Vidya Mandir against St Xavier’s in a Harris Shield match in 1988, was a prodigious talent too. He made a grand entry into Test cricket with two double hundreds against England in his debut season, and an astounding batting average of 54.2, before the West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh halted his career after just 17 Tests in a span of less than two years, by exposing a fatal weakness against short pitched bowling. (Kambli made a valiant comeback in one-day internationals before a freak injury cruelly ended that too.)

Precocious cricketing talent perhaps abounds in India and might always have existed unbeknown to the world at large, because even gifted youngsters grow into international cricket at the adult level in a systematic progression, if at all, and we seldom get to learn of their extraordinary talent when they don’t make the grade.

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