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Family behind rise of India’s new U-19 captain Dhull


Yash Dhull had his first brush with fame hours after being named captain of the India Under-19 squad for the Asia Cup on Friday.

The top-order batsman and off-spinner was the centre of attraction when he got to the Bal Bhavan International School’s academy ground in Dwarka. The 100-odd budding cricketers and their coaches took a small break from their practice session and gathered around a table on which a round cake shaped like a cricket field was kept to be cut by the now-famous student.

Yash, 19, obliged selfie-seekers and posed for group photographs. A coach told the trainees about Yash being a dedicated student of the game and the ideal role model.

The junior India skipper was asked by eager parents of budding cricketers for quick tips to success. A self-conscious Yash spoke about staying grounded, working hard, and not letting success get to one’s head. He was quickly growing into his new role.

“I am not used to the attention but I don’t get carried away by success. My phone has been constantly ringing and I am trying to answer all the calls from coaches, friends, relatives, and teammates. I have to be thankful for those who helped me get here,” the boy from West Delhi’s Janakpuri area says.

His mind went back to the time he used to play two matches a day unmindful of any care outside the game because his grandfather Jagat Singh, an army man and war veteran, chaperoned him around the capital’s cricket circuit.

Dhull’s father Vijay Singh says Jagat would have been overjoyed if he was alive.

Dhull recalls the time of the ‘silent heart attack’ about three years ago. “It was 7:16 am, my mother had gone to give him his morning tea. He was no more,” Dhull says about the fateful morning.

His grandfather was a constant shadow and guide.

A young Yash Dhull with his grandfather Jagat Singh Dhull. (Express Photo)

“My grandfather used to take me everywhere, for every match and every practice session. We were inseparable. We used to have our meals together. He was also wary about me picking up bad habits or falling into the wrong company. So he did advise me. He used to wait the whole day till I finished a game or practice ended and then drive me back home. He enjoyed watching me play,” Dhull says.
His father Vijay too had cricketing aspirations but the sport took a backseat when he had to put food on the family table. Vijay is very matter of fact. “There was a point when I had doubts if I was good enough. It was around the time when I had more responsibilities, like looking after the family,” Vijay, a vice-president with a cosmetics company, says. “Knowing that Yash is good enough to be named captain of a junior India team brings joy.”

Talent-spotter in family

It was his mother Neelam, Dhull says, who spotted a spark in him. “It was about six years ago. My mother noticed that I was shadow-practising on the street without a bat. So she said, ‘let’s enroll you in an academy’. And that is how my cricket career began.”

He joined the Airliner Cricket Academy in Janakpuri and his progress was a steady linear graph. Following an unbeaten 186 against Punjab in the Under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy, he was promoted as skipper. Under his captaincy, Delhi reached the knockouts after eight years. But there was a setback when the pandemic struck just days before he was to travel to the National Cricket Academy.
“My father put up practice nets on the terrace of the house. Everyone bowled to me, including my mother and sister. My family is really supportive.”

One of Dhull’s cherished memories is of the 40 not out he made as a 11-year-old in the Under-16 Rajesh Peter Memorial Tournament. “I was much younger than the other boys, played in the top order and at the end of the game received my first cash prize, Rs 500,” he recalls.
Airliner academy coach Pradeep Kochar, a former First-Class player, says what stood out immediately was Dhull’s ball sense. As the years progressed, Kochar noticed a quality that could not be taught. “He didn’t let pressure affect him. He was sensible, calm, and controlled his emotions well. It is this nature that makes him special. Youngsters find it hard to handle the pressure of expectations these days. Yash is an exception.”

Coaches have started fitting him into different moulds. Rajesh Nagar, who trains Dhull at the Bal Bhavan Academy, compares him to Kohli. “He can play aggressive cricket without being unorthodox,” Nagar says. Kochar thinks he sees a KL Rahul in his young ward. “He can play an all-around game and can switch modes quickly.”

Dhull doesn’t entertain comparisons with Kohli, another West Delhi boy who also captained the India Under-19 team, or any other modern cricketer.

“There is so much competition these days. The game is evolving very fast and having the right mindset is important. I have a long road ahead of me. Also, I don’t have a role model because everyone who plays at the international level has a quality worth emulating. But what I carefully watch is their mindset,” he adds.

The trip to the United Arab Emirates for the U-19 Asia Cup will be Dhull’s first foreign tour in India colours. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. So, I would say I feel like it is normal. Not taking too much pressure nor having too much joy. It is best to remain grounded.”





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