It has been quite some time since we last saw or heard about Pranav Dhanawade    AFP
It has been quite some time since we last saw or heard about Pranav Dhanawade AFP

I hardly remember it. There are some memories but I can t dwell on them. Such are Pranav Dhanawade s memories of that 1,009* the highest score in representative cricket by a substantial margin. Sometimes I go through the paper cuttings and feel good but that is it. It has been a while now.

The focus was on the Cape Town Test when Dhanawade rewrote history. There was plenty to talk about. Ben Stokes had hammered the hosts all around Newlands as Jonny Bairstow kept him company. Hashim Amla retaliated by breaking a run-drought with a double ton. Temba Bavuma, in presence of his family, became the first black centurion for South Africa.

Amidst all this, what caught the attention of Michael Atherton and his co-commentator attention was the record that was etched over 8,000 kilometres away, in Kalyan, a suburb in Mumbai region.

Abhishek Mukherjee, CricketCountry s editor-in-chief, had then written 1,009. Not 109. For the first time in history, even in minor cricket, has a comma made an appearance in the score of an individual.This is not even EA Sports Cricket 2007, where you could use that lofted on-drive to bring up hundreds in three overs and thousands in thirty. This is the real thing, involving a real bat and a real ball, pulled off by a boy of 15. Boys of that age save money from January to buy a proper Valentine s Day gift from Archie s or Hallmark.

Pranav Dhanawade: A thousand splendid runs
Pranav Dhanawade: A thousand splendid runs

Prashant Dhanawade, Pranav s father, was plying his auto-rickshaw around Kalyan when a friend s phone call summoned him to Union Cricket Academy Ground.

Had this been a Bollywood biopic, let us envisage Prashant flying his auto around all possible obstacles in Kalyan to reach the spot seconds before the hit that took Pranav past 1,000. None of that happened.

What was it like? Prashant was aware of the fact that the opponents (Arya Gurukul) had been bowled out cheaply (for 31). Then he received a call from a friend. Your son is past 300, was the message.

It was an usual day for me. I was ferrying my auto around the town when I got the message. It never struck me that he was batting past 300. I told my friend, Badhiya hai. Pranav ke team ka 300 hua toh lead badh gaya (Good to know. Pranav s team has gone past 300, which means the lead is sizable by now). Then he corrected my thoughts and said it s your son who has scored a triple-century. I rushed to the spot and he was past 350, Prashant, engulfed in the cocktail of emotions, recalls the mad day.

Prashant watched his son in an avatar attained by no one in organised cricket. He immediately asked his wife to deck up the house and updated her with the scores.

KC Gandhi had bowled out Arya Gurukul for 31, and ended Day One of the Bhandari Cup match at 956 for 1, with Pranav batting on 652.

The record for the highest score was nabbed. Of course, statisticians across the world were jumping up and down in excitement by now. But did little Pranav know about the approaching record?

Of course, I knew about Prithvi Shaw s 546. Prithvi and me were good friends and played Under-12 to Under-16 cricket at MIG. I knew if I went past him I would have the Indian record (for the highest score in minor cricket). Then a friend s father present at the ground told us that Arthur Collins 628 not out is the world record. When I surpassed it I knew I had broken a 117-year-old [record], the boy in Pranav speaks with the zest of enthuse.

AEJ Collins, 13, compiles highest score in all forms of cricket
AEJ Collins, 13, compiles highest score in all forms of cricket

[Trivia: AEJ Collins never played First-Class cricket. Collins batted 6 hours 45 minutes. His innings of 628 consisted of a six, 4 fives, 31 fours, 33 threes, 146 twos and 87 singles. A memorial was created at Clifton College. Unfortunately, Collins breathed his last at 29 as a Lieutenant, being one of the early casualties of the First World War. Two of his brothers, Norman and Herbert, were also claimed by the war.]

Martin Williamson wrote in an ESPNCricinfo article, For a while Collins was public property. Today all men speak of him, wrote one newspaper. He has a reputation as great as the most advertised soap: he will be immortalised. But even when the immediate impact waned, Collins was constantly reminded of his achievement.

A similar script was being written at Kalyan.

Day Two. The little-known region in Kalyan had turned into a media circus. Lenses zoomed and panned around the Union Cricket Academy Ground.

If an unbeaten 1,009, consisting of 129 fours and 59 sixes, off just 327 balls, wasn t exhausting enough, the constant interviews lined up had drained the then 15-year-old and his family. The spotlight of the world of cricket shone brightly on Kalyan. He had snatched the limelight from Stokes, who had slammed a Test double ton off 163 balls!

Pranav s was cricket s first decuple century. He was the first millenarian in cricket.

The scoresheet from Pranav Dhanawade's match of his historic innings. Image Courtesy: Sarang Bhalerao Twitter handle
The scoresheet from Pranav Dhanawade’s match of his historic innings. Image Courtesy: Sarang Bhalerao Twitter handle

Apart from the regular Indian media, there were the likes of CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera queued up for interviews. We couldn t sleep well for the first few days, Prashant smiles.

Pranav and family had to pad up for the media. The media had their deadlines. Spare a thought for the scorer!

Scorer Sharmila Thakur had told CricketCountry, It was very hectic. While it was fun to watch, it was very difficult to keep up with the entire process of acknowledging the umpire and jot everything down on paper. I have never been as active throughout the day.

Pranav Dhanawade: Want to play everything, from Ranji Trophy to IPL
Pranav Dhanawade: Want to play everything, from Ranji Trophy to IPL

Pranav s name was sprawled across newspapers, news channel tickers, and website homepages. Even politicians and the association chiefs had queued up to shower gifts and accolades. If Sachin Tendulkar congratulated him, MS Dhoni cited that this achievement irrespective of any opposition was commendable.

But… where is Pranav now?

Prithvi Shaw has already emerged as the new poster boy of Mumbai. At 17, he has already slammed centuries on his Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy debuts. A teenage prodigy hailed as the next big thing has just begun his journey towards prophecy. Pranav, a few months younger to Prithvi, is still slogging his way for a Mumbai Under-19 slot.

Earlier this year, during an interaction with Prithvi, he recalled Pranav surpassing of his record: I was playing then when the news came to me. I did not believe it at first. I mean, a thousand runs in an innings? Mera hi record toota (My record was broken), but I felt good. It is simply unbelievable!

Prithvi Shaw has already made a mark for India A sides    AFP
Prithvi Shaw has already made a mark for India A sides AFP

However, the good friends haven t had the opportunity to interact since.

Pranav is toiling in the maidaans in the selection games for state under-19 team. His appearances have been sporadic at best. Headlines haven t come his way for the right causes; we will later come to the wrong reason

Life has changed… or has it?

For Pranav, it has been a struggle to maintain form and living up to the height of expectations. Hundreds and double-hundreds are for mortals, aren t they?

Life changed drastically since that January day, Pranav says. Everyone has seen me, so they recognise me. Every time I am out to play there are more expectations. There is performance pressure but I take things to my stride. A lot good has happened. Do you know of SS? They have been kind enough to sponsor my cricket kits since.

Is cricket a sport only for the rich and privileged? That is debatable. The likes of Ravindra Jadejas and Umesh Yadavs have redefined the notion as myth but drawing parallels to the real world, the sport still requires financial assistance at grass-root levels.

Prashant highlights the financial woes that continue: This sport is for rich people. From bats to pads to all other gears, they come expensive. Being an auto driver, the financial constraints were big but we had to fight on to fulfil our son s dreams. The recognition has made things slightly easier but fight with finances in order to pursue Pranav s cricket career continues.

Pranav adds to it: My dad is into auto business. He drives an auto but has ensured all my needs are taken care of. I am grateful to my family for their support. The Mumbai Cricket Association s (MCA) scholarship of INR 10,000 has helped.

Even at this age, Pranav has no option but to support the family in every possible way: My mom use to leave for work to support family but not before ensuring my tiffin and other needs were taken care of. She has now quit her work and has started a catering business. I too help her with that.

Shaikh speaks

Pranav, a wicketkeeper-batsman, is still under the watchful eyes of Mobin Shaikh, head coach of the academy run by Modern Cricket Club, Kalyan. Shaikh isn t too pleased with the rise of his pupil: Pranav s world record was like finding oil in Rajasthan. Who would have thought that a little boy from Kalyan with limited cricket facilities would belt a thousand? The next few days were maddening. There were numerous promises on infrastructural developments. We don t even have proper practice wickets here and that hampers the balls and bats. If Pranav shone despite these adversities, the concerned authorities should have made a note and done more to nurture talent in these spots.

It s almost a 100-minute journey from Kalyan to the maidaans of Mumbai, where thousands of cricket aspirants slog it out everyday. Despite offers from Mumbai clubs, Prashant doesn t want to burden his son with the travel pressure along with studies: Matches and occasional trainings are fine but not a routine.

Shaikh adds that it s not possible for every child to be a part of the same routine and travel to Mumbai. He also stresses on the financial and infrastructural requirements in lesser privileged zones: They are kids. And there are many poor kids. It s not possible for all to pack bags and travel to Mumbai daily. You see parents who can afford well, spend money and time behind their wards for sports. They invest time being there at the ground and taking care of every minute needs.But how many from here, from the municipality schools are privileged for the same? What s their fault?

When the limelight fell on me as the coach of a teenager who slammed a thousand, I decided to use it well. I highlighted on the talent many such poor kids possess in this part and how proper facilities can help them surface. Most of it was talks. Where are the associations? Where are the corporates?

Though MCA s scholarship has taken burden off Pranav s family slightly, I am still waiting for trained coaches from BKC to come and take Pranav under their wings. This talent shouldn t fade, adds the disappointed coach before politely asking me to appeal through this article, If there s a talent like Pranav in our area, help him prosper and there are more like him. Please invest money and time in sports in this part.

Shaikh refuses to give up on Pranav and has made his pupil s mission his own. From well-intended prophetic words our discussion moves towards his famous prot g : Pranav has already made me a world famous coach. But I regret not making him THE cricketer yet. That is my mission. The kid is working hard. I am working on his batting technique but as a wicketkeeper he has improved significantly. It is however a work under progress. He likes to open the batting and keep wickets but then that s not always the case in selection games. I am mentally preparing him as a player who fits to the team demands. He might have preferences but this isn t the ideal platform where he would get to do what he wants.

The MCA scholarship is a boost no doubt. He lost the Air India contract this year but I made him understand that he has to keep performing to earn the accolades. It s an ongoing process till the far end. I have told him to erase all of the 1,009 and start afresh. He definitely doesn t dwells onto it. He has begun his journey for greener pastures and I am the rock behind him.

True, it s an ongoing process till the far end. Like Prithvi s years of toil has only marked a new beginning for him, someone like Virat Kohli has set standards so high that a century-less international series is dubbed as a failure for him.

Mehnat kar, tujhe ab bade level mein khelna hai

Pranav has been hooked to the game since the age of five. While the journey for most aspirants starts in their tweens, Pranav realised his true potential and ambition to become a professional cricketer after the tryst with record.

Thanks to the same, he has got a chance to interact with his two idols.

Dombivili is a suburb 10 minutes closer to Mumbai than Kalyan is. Another wiry-framed starry-eyed teenager had battled the crowd in the local trains to make it to the Mumbai maidaans. He currently happens to be the vice-captain of the national Test side.

The other is the master of all mystics.

Sachin Tendulkar and Ajinkya Rahane are my two idols. I am extremely fortunate to have interacted with both of them, here goes Pranav.

So, what were their advices?

Sachinsir personally congratulated me. He said mehnat kar, tujhe ab bade level mein khelna hai (keep working hard as you have to play at higher levels). He also told me, padhai karneka hai (focus on education as well) as that will not only help you with back-up option but also grow as an individual, Pranav reveals.

Prashant is a practical man. He had anticipated the limelight to fade after initial madness: For now Pranav needs to put his bat to one side and study for the crucial exams in March. He s very young and I would be very happy if he plays for India but there are many steps before he can get there.

Pranav s Standard-10 board examinations were around the corner when he played that four-figure innings. Not many are aware that he took his Sachin-Sir s advice seriously and secured 61 per cent. A few months away from the 10+2 board, he is eyeing another first-division score.

Pranav is also a fan of the Rahane s technique and elegance: My conversation with Ajinkya-Sir was more on the technical adjustments I need to make. I am huge fan of his technique.

Pranav was in Manchester earlier this year as a part of a cricket tour organised by Dilip Vengsarkar. He enjoyed the limited exposure and got a little hang of what was it like playing in alien conditions.

Minnow-basher?

The 17-year-old has seen the goods with the hype, he has seen the bads with finances and form and now the uglys, which I had mentioned above. It is time I return to that

Many local reports had dismissed Pranav s efforts as nothing better than minnow-bashing. There were reports on how weak the opposition was and how young their bowlers were. To be fair, he was bashing 10-year-old pint-sized pacers , who would only dare to stare up at four-and-half feet.

The full strength side of Arya Gurukul could not play as the principal had organised a session for standard ninth- and tenth-standard kids. Pranav merrily feasted on the bowling of kids mostly from standards fifth to eighth.

The dimensions of the ground and multiple chances offered (what do you expect in a knock of 1,009?) were also cited. Many in the journalism circles didn t realise the magnitude of the effort.

The men who matter, however, did.

Scoring 1,009 runs is not a joke. It s a tremendous effort and shows a glimpse of talent, Dhoni had said.

It is is a very big thing to bat for one-and-a-half days and needs immense concentration and focus, Rahane had supported.

Did Pranav hear those critics?

Yes I did. Some reports and some people did mention about the weak opponents and other stuff. I could face only what I was offered. I didn t pay attention to them. It s beyond my control. I was happy with what I achieved, replies Pranav.

The opponents had counted as many as 25 chances gone down but the scorer had her own version.

There were a few, 3 or 4 catches, and 2 stumpings; but even considering that, the innings was outstanding, added Ms Thakur, the scorer.

The Arjun Tendulkar matter

In mid-2016, there was a social media outrage on how being son of Sachin Tendulkar had paved Arjun s path to West Zone Under-16 side ahead of the much-deserving Pranav.

The question was probably obvious:

The fact was simple. Pranav wasn t even eligible for selection: You have to play for the state side to stand a chance to get selected for the zone. The selection for Mumbai Under-16 was done before my record and they had played matches as well. I didn t feature for the Mumbai U-16 team so there was no question of West Zone selection … Arjun is a very good cricketer and we are good friends and regularly in touch. You have to feel for him. He has to go through unnecessary controversies just because he is the son of Sachin-Sir.

The arrest

January 2016 was all about Pranav s glory; in December the headlines ruled with his reported arrest .

A makeshift helipad had been created at Kalyan s Subhash Maidan for a prominent politician s chopper to land. The cricketers had occupied a small part of the ground and local police kept on asking Pranav and other youngsters training there to vacate the ground.

Shaikh was famously quoted then: There are no proper facilities for children to train. There s only one proper ground in that area for budding cricketers. The ground is like a temple or mosque for the players; they should get first preference there. Just a year ago, you put this kid on the pedestal and now you have treated him like a criminal.

Here s Pranav recalling the horrors of the December evening: Pehle nets chalutha. Phirpolice ne bandh karwa diya (The net practice was on but then police stopped it). Others and me had stopped training, and had packed our bags. We were stretching at one corner when cops threatened us why were we still loitering around despite the warning. I told them that we are almost done with our stretching exercises and would vacate in five minutes. They were livid at my reply and said tu galat jawab de rahaa hai (You are answering back in wrong way). They grabbed me by the collar and put me in the van.

My father had reached there by then and intervened. Unhone Papa ka bhi collar pakda aur humein police station le gaye (They even grabbed him by the collar and took both of us to police station). There was no arrest as such. The PI knew us but still continued to hurl abuses at us in the police station.

Prashant adds to the trauma: It was only after a few local politicians and media persons showed up when the they allowed us to go. It was all sorted and the PI was suspended for a week. He later apologised.

What lies ahead?

Prashant maintains that he doesn t want to burden his ward with expectations: He is working hard. I do my bit to motivate him. The expectations are immense from him but I want him to continue working hard and if things have to fall in place they will.

As for Pranav, he wants to reach quickly elevate to the place where his mates Prithvi and Arjun are: From Ranji to IPL to India, I want to play them all. My first goal is Mumbai Under-19.

Pranav has already placed Kalyan on cricketing maps. He longs to be India s batsman some day. A gruelling season is already underway for him as England gear up for The Ashes. Can Pranav once again steal Stokes limelight (provided the man shows up)?