Whatever happened to Pranav Dhanawade? Who? The 15-year-old boy who scored 1,009 runs in an innings, two years ago.
It caused quite a stir at the time, with MS Dhoni labelling him ‘a serious talent’ and Sachin Tendulkar sending his praise. Sponsors lined up and the Mumbai Cricket Association awarded him a bursary. CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera queued up for interviews.
Then came a reality check, when it was pointed out that the opposing team at that U16 schools tournament were two years younger, some as young as 11, and playing out of their age group. Their senior side had been held back to prepare for academic exams. Reporters mentioned that the ground was ridiculously small (even for a schools event) and that as many as 25 catches were dropped by the overawed youngsters.
The whole event depressed me. Pranav’s team had already bowled out their opponents for 31, so what prompted the coach of KC Gandhi English School to allow his boys to keep batting on and on and on?
When his openers had each scored a hundred, surely that was the time to call them in, if only to give lower-order batsmen a chance, if not to avoid humiliating the young Ayra Gurukul team. They were 956-1 at the end of day one; a lead of 621. Wasn’t that enough? They batted on the next day until Pranav had his thousand, off 327 balls, with 129 fours and 59 sixes, and the score stood at 1,465-3.
I don’t bear any animosity towards Pranav. As he himself says, ‘I could face only what I was offered. It’s beyond my control. I was happy with what I achieved.’
But he also mentioned the fact that now that he is so well known, there is great expectation on him, a great weight on his shoulders to do well every time he steps up to the crease.
And sadly, he has not excelled; there have been no sparkling hundreds against boys of his own age grabbing the headlines, and it becomes more and more obvious that he was, figuratively speaking, a flat-track bully who was allowed to take advantage of awfully weak opposition.
Just as a comparison, one of the records broken by Pranav on his ridiculous journey was the 546 of Prithvi Shaw, with whom Pranav had played U12 to U16 cricket at MIG cricket club. It was the highest score in minor cricket in India. Prithvi had achieved this for Rizvi Springfield school against St Francis D’Assisi Borivali in an interschools tournament – and St Francis were fielding their strongest team.
Prithvi Shaw is the new poster boy of Mumbai cricket, and gaining national attention. At 17, he had scored centuries on his Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy debuts; he played for the India Board President’s XI against New Zealand, scoring 66 off the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee and he has been appointed captain of the India U19 team at this year’s World Cup. That is, to use Dhoni’s words, ‘serious talent’. Pranav is still dreaming of making the Mumbai U19s.
Of that amazing innings, Pranav says: ‘I hardly remember it. There are some memories but I can’t dwell on them. Sometimes I go through the paper cuttings and feel good but that is it. It has been a while now.’