While all the focus was on the Lodha Committee report and then Hashim Amla's return to form for South Africa, there was one teenager from northern Mumbai suburb of Kalyan who had set out on a special journey, unnoticed. It was only late Monday night that people started to realise that he had broken the record of highest individual score in minor cricket. As 15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade became the first player to register a four-digit figure score in any form of cricket on Tuesday, world cricket's attention was firmly set on him. It was ridiculous, it was unbelievable and it was breathtaking. The two days had changed Pranav's - an autorikshaw driver's son - life and given cricket a new prodigy.
Opening the batting for Smt KC Gandhi School (Kalyan), Pranav scored 1009 not out off just 323 balls against Arya Gurukul school. He wreaked havoc as he smashed 129 fours and 59 sixes at the Union Cricket Club ground during the HT Bhandari Cup inter-school cricket tournament organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).
In the process, Pranav bettered AEJ Collins' 628 not out for for Clark’s House against North Town in Clifton College in 1899 in the UK.
At the end of the day he was suffering from cramps, but he still had the stamina to give interviews for the next three to four hours to the numerous reporters who had lined up outside the dressing room. But this innings was not just about the numbers -- there's more to it -- the build-up, the little things that mattered and the interesting intangibles.
- While Pranav hit 129 fours and 59 sixes, very few know that he played out just 26 dot balls in his 323-ball innings. This was also, remarkably, his first ever 100+ plus score at inter-school level and he went times better in the same innings.
- Pranav likes to attack from the word go -- he is a big hitter, but seven days ago, he was upset that he was getting out in 70s and 80s and not getting to three figures. He used to throw away his wicket. On 31 December, Pranav, his academy coach Mubin Shaikh and father Prashant were traveling to the training ground for a full day coaching camp in his rickshaw when this topic cropped up and his father, sounding quite irritated, said: "Kay wicket fekun yeto, kay fayda aahe ka? Khedaicha aahe to career banwachya sathi khed (Why do you throw away your wicket every time? If you want to play, play to make a career)."
His coach Mubin gave him a real pep talk: "What's the use of dealing in 70s and 80s? Hundreds of people somewhere in the country hit these kind of runs," Sheikh told Firstpost. "Think something big, do something different to get into the reckoning and catch the attention of concerned people. Enough of this Mobile and Whatsapp, concentrate on getting something big. If you don't play well then you would end up being a scorer, decide what you watn to be - scorer or a cricketer?"
That, according to Sheikh, hit him hard. Six days later, Pranav has a world record to his name.
- Pranav scored 652 on the first day and didn't show any signs of tiredness, he was going going great guns on the second morning too -- but on 921 -- when he went into lunch, he started to feel the effect of heat. "He was literally telling me at lunch time that 'Sir, aab nahi hoga! (I can't continue now), may be we can declare'. But I convinced him to get to the magical 1000-mark and then we can declare," his school coach Harish Sharma told Firstpost.
22 minutes post lunch, Pranav reached that magical four-figure mark and what else, he took to the field ten minutes later after his team declared on 1465/3.
- Pranav didn't garner much time for his family after remaining unbeaten on 652 the day before he crossed 1000 runs. Continous media requests for interviews meant that even after reaching home at 8.30 PM, he couldn't have a word with his mother. It was only before going to sleep that he had a short two-three minute chat with her. Busy man.
"He just told me 'Mummy, I am going to score 1000 runs tomorrow.' The confidence with which he said those words doubled our confidence and I just told him, 'forget whatever happened today, tomorrow you have to start afresh," Pranav's mother Rohini told Firstpost.
- Pranav is a wicket-keeper batsman. There is a funny story behind his conversion into a keeper. Mubin - who has been the guiding force behind Pranav since the age of six - says, "Pranav was a very mischevious boy when he was a child. I used to get really angry and when I scolded him, he used to pee in his pants."
"However, he was difficult to handle. One day I decided why not make him a wicket-keeper? At least he will stay under my watchful eyes and use all the energy in concentrating on his keeping." The trick worked and he developed into a very good keeper..
- The excitement on Pranav's 15-year-old school friends - Chinmay Daund and Omkar Sanap's - faces was palpable as they made their way to the ground. Pranav had asked them whether they would come to watch but they were busy studying for exams and couldn't make it earlier. However, after he scored 652, they called up Pranav to congratulate him and Pranav told them that he would get to the 1000 mark.
"Pranav used to tell me that it was his childhood dream to create a world record and that he had sacrificed a lot for it," Chinmay told Firstpost. "He told us that I will definitely score 1000 runs and will also remain unbeaten, so do come." They arrived on time and Pranav was true to his word. So now that the friend has created a world record, what next? "He is coming to school tomorrow, so party!" shout the teenagers with innocence as they continue to revel in celebrations.
- 10th standard is a very important academic year for every student (with board exams and all). Just like his school friends, Pranav would have been studying for the all-important exams had it not been for special permission granted to him by his school principal. Pranav was an average student and with an important year coming up, his principle advised his father to ask him to up the ante a little bit in his studies. But such was Pranav's hunger for cricket that he couldn't stay away from the game.
"I told his father, he needs to concentrate on studies so that he could get admission in a good college. His father agreed to it and he didn't play for three months from June to September," Principal Dhakne told FirstPost. "But he couldn't stay away from the game. One day he came to me and said - my blood is boiling to play cricket so please allow me to play the game."
"Normally, the entries for our academy starts from June and only those players who play in our academy play the matches, but we granted him special permission considering his passion. However, we never expected that he would break the highest individual score record one day," adds Dhakne.
- While Pranav stole the limelight, the contributions of two of his teammates went unnoticed - Aakash Singh (173) and Siddhesh Patil (137). Aakash added 546 with Pranav for the opening wicket and then Siddhesh added 531. While the duo enjoyed watching Pranav from the other end, they also revealed that they had come out with a specific plan and there was constant interaction with Pranav in the middle.
"Pranav had started to hit the ball right from the word go and our coach Harish Sharma had told him to do all the hitting and these boys will give you the singles. So we were playing the sensible game by rotating the strike," Aakash told Firstpost.
"If a particular bowler was bowling well then we used to dicuss different ideas about how to play him. If you are comfortable then you play him out else give me the strike. The plan was not to take any risky singles after achieving the quota of runs in the over. We got two-three loose balls every over and we had decided not to let them go unpunished," adds Aakash.
It was when Pranav crossed 400 that the team management and the players in the dressing room started searching on the internet for all the records that could broken.
"After his 652 on the first day, we had decided that we won't declare until Pranav gets to 1000 runs and we also wanted the break the record for the highest team total," says Aakash.
- Pranav used to bat in the middle and lower middle order at No 5 or 6. But just seven matches ago, his school coach Sharma shifted him to open the batting. "He is a good player, he has the talent, he has the capacity and he has a good range of strokes. I thought that coming lower down the order was affecting his mindset. He might have been thinking that I don't have much support down the order and because of that he might be playing more shots and in process perishing," Pranav's school coach told us.
"I didn't want his talent to go wasted so I asked him whether he would open. He said yes. But I had taken a promise from him, if you open, then you have to spend maximum time at the crease. And if you don't follow my instructions then you will be demoted again. In the last seven matches he was doing well scoring 70s and 80s but today he just went at another level," adds Sharma.
- The umpires had a couple of long hard days and they were awestruck with Pranav's energy. One of the umpires Sunimal Sen has been officiating for the MCA for more than 23 years. He once officiated a Harris shield match in which Wasim Jaffer scored 400. However, he said he had seen nothing like Pranav's innings before in local cricket. "I haven't seen so may four and sixes in my life, this was the first time," Sen told Firstpost.
"It requires a lot of courage and stamina. As his innings progressed, I didn't feel that he was tired at all. If this would have been a five-day match, then he would have batted all five days," Sen added.
"It was a difficult job, we were just continuously signalling sixes and fours and after carrying out the same excercise again and again, I think I will have to get a massage for my right hand in the night, " Sen joked. "Me and my colleague Sagar Landge are really lucky to have officiated this historic match," Sen said.
Not only the umpires, but it was immense hard work for the scorers too.
"It was hard work and required immense concentration. We had to acknowledge each and every signal from the umpires and it was just raining fours and sixes," says Sharmila Thakur, who has been an MCA scorer for more than a year now. "This was different from other matches as it was moving really fast. We had to be on our toes and get the calculations accurate in a short time but it was an amazing experience and we enjoyed a lot."
- When Pranav's mother, Mohini, came to know about Pranav's love for cricket, she was sceptical. Like most parents, she wanted her son to concentrate on entirely on studies. "Pranav was a good student till fifth standard. He used to score above 80 percent every year but after sixth and seventh, the percentages went down and that's why my anger increased," Mohini told us.
But after the events that unfolded in the last couple of days, Mohini has mellowed down. "After watching all this, I would tell him to go ahead with cricket. We will support him to the fullest but he shouldn't neglect studies. Don't let this success get into the head. Become a good cricketer but most importantly become a good human being," Mohini added.
- Arya Gurukul school coach Yogesh Jagtap knows Pranav for the last five years. He even played with Pranav in the same team for Modern Cricket Club -- an MCA registered club -- in a local tournament in Kalyan last year. Modern Cricket Club were struggling at 80/9 from 20 overs in a 45 over match against Union Cricket Club in the quarter-final but then Pranav and Yogesh got together and added an unbeaten 80-run stand for the last wicket to achieve some respectability for the team as they set a target of 160. The team lost but Yogesh was really impressed with Pranav's innings.
- Arya Gurukul school kids must be battered and bruised but they showed extreme character under dire circumstances. Not many know that they fielded a second string side. They were a mix of under 14 and under 12 kids rather than the under-16s who were supposed to play. This was because the parents of the teenagers were reluctant to send them for the match with pre-board exams going on.
"I got to know at 9 pm, the night before the match that the main team players would not be able to take part as the pre-board exams can't be adjusted and the parents were reluctant. So I was asked to field other school kids in the match. I couldn't do much as it was related to studies and exams," Yogesh told Firstpost.
"So as soon as I received the message of unavailability, I compiled a team of U-12 and U-14 players who were just beginners. One kid - Sarath Salunke - was just 10 years, the youngest in the side . But I never imagined things would turn out this way."
The Arya Gurukul school kids were definitely tired but they showed great sportsmanship, they put up a brave face and made sure they enjoyed the game.
"They performed way above my expectation. At this age it's really hard to field for almost two days and still have the energy and confidence. Even after getting hit for 30-40 runs, the bowler was asking me for another over. They were mentally really strong. Ask them to play tomorrow and they will readily say yes," Yogesh added.
"After hearing about the heroics of Pranav on the first day, many of the first team members' parents sent me messages of Facebook that they committed a mistake by not allowing their kids to participate in the match. Even the first team players approached the principal requesting them to be granted permission to play the next match."
Amidst the carnage, there was a lot of learning for the youngsters.
"What I learnt from Pranav's batting was that getting to the pitch of the ball was important," Swaraj Deshmukh, the captain of Arya Gurukul, told Firstpost. And some suggestions that I would give my team is, 'Bowl stump to stump on a good length area and get in line of the ball and then play the strokes.'"
"May Pranav keep playing the same way and it's good that someone from Kalyan is making us proud," Swaraj signed off.
While there were celebrations galore, with songs, dance and interviews, there was a poignant moment as the Yogesh gathered his kids into a huddle before they left the ground. There was a loud cheer from the energetic kids. They had lost the onfield battle but won many hearts. "It's party time," Yogesh said as he took the kids to a nearby restaurant to cheer them up further.