The news of 15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade scoring 1 000 runs in a school game was depressing to read.
It is perhaps one of the most dispiriting and heart-rending stories I have read on a sports platform.
Before we go any further, it is necessary to imprint firmly in your mind that this was a SCHOOL game, an U16 tournament, the H.T. Bhandari Cup inter-school cricket tournament organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association. Guys aged 15, with a smattering of 16-year-olds who fall within the date frame.
For Pranav, a pupil at the KC Gandhi English School in Kalyan, Mumbai, it is an amazing innings: 1 009 not out off 327 balls, 129 fours, 59 sixes. The team went on to make 1 465-3 before declaring. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and MS Dhoni used Twitter to send their congratulations.
But I see nothing to celebrate in this feat. Absolutely Nothing.
The opposition was the Ayra Gurukul School, who, because of exams, sent their U14 team; and even that was a scratch team: mostly 13-year-olds with a smattering of 14-year-olds. I want to quote their coach, Yogesh Jagtap, because I found his tone so admirable:
‘That was special. I have never seen something like this. Yes, the ground may be small and he was dropped quite a few times by my players, but credit to him for the way he played.
‘The boys playing for my team were actually from U14 and most of them playing for the first time. My U16 team players who were supposed to participate could not come as the principal could not release them due to 10th exams. The boys were under-prepared. In fact, such was the impact of his shots that they could not put hand to the ball’.
As any parent knows, the difference between a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old is disproportionately huge.
As they say, you play what is in front of you, but what prompted this obscene orgy of run-feasting off a hapless and obviously outclassed opposition? Arya Gurukul had batted first, and been rolled out for 31. It must have been clear within a few overs that they were nowhere near the required standard; but, hey, there’s a game to win, so get on with it and win it.
Fair play; but when the openers had each scored a hundred, and then 150 apiece, what was going on in the mind of the KC Gandhi coach’s mind? I’m trying to work it out. At 300-odd, they had a winning lead, and with 150 runs to his name, Pranav was light years away from the thought of world records and making headlines.
Why did the coach not call them in, or retire them so other batsmen could have a go? Did he think, ‘this is so easy, let’s see how much humiliation we can rub in’?
And even at the end of day one, when Pranav had broken the highest individual score in an innings record held by AEJ Collins of 628 not out (for Clark’s House against North Town set in 1899), and the team were on 956-1, why did he not say, ‘got the record, time to declare’? Why bat on, and on, and on?
I wonder what was going through the mind of Yogesh Jagtap, watching his young boys being so utterly destroyed; what was going through their minds? I wonder if they will ever play cricket again?
School cricket is supposed to be about fun, fair play, sportsmanship and learning the game; not exploitation and abuse. Arya used seven bowlers who were forced to toil through a total of 123 overs; 248 balls being smashed to the boundary with raucous ridicule and an increasing blood-lust. Where’s the joy and sportsmanship in that?
If I were the principal of the KC Gandhi School, I would fire my cricket coach. He has brought no honour to the school, but shame.