Hailing from a lower middle-class background with no ‘Godfather’ in a corrupt cricket environment, Suyash Sharma is that quintessential Delhi cricketer, who is not a product of the system. In fact, he has got success despite the system. Not only he had to struggle due to lack of backing, he also had to deal with the stress related to the illness of his father who is fighting the dreaded cancer disease.
Delhi keeps churning this kind of phenomenal talent with monotonic regularity and the long-haired 19-year-old from Bhajanpura in East Delhi is the latest to join the bandwagon.
Making his debut as an ‘impact substitute’, the unheralded Suyash took 3 for 30 in KKR’s 81-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore. His scalps included two recognized keeper-batters — Dinesh Karthik and Anuj Rawat apart from all-rounder Karn Sharma.
The wiry-framed leg-break bowler hardly showed signs of nerves. His arm-speed and ability to bowl leg-break and googly without any distinct change in action has surely caught the imagination of coaches and the fans.
Bhajanpura in Delhi gained notoriety three years back when it was one of the epicentres of the city’s communal riots.
“It wasn’t an easy journey for Suyash. He was former Delhi spinner Suresh Batra’s student and used to play for his club. We lost Suresh ji to COVID-19 and after that, he came to me as he wanted match practice. I Gave him a chance to play for my Madras Club in the DDCA league and Run-Star club in open tournaments,” noted Delhi coach Randhir Singh told PTI.
The last year had been extremely difficult for Suyash, who doesn’t come from a financially well-off family.
“His father was detected with cancer. But I think he will forever be indebted to former Delhi spinner and current MI manager (talent scout) Rahul Sanghvi, who helped him immensely with his father’s treatment.
“I told him if any help was needed, we could look at AIIMS but thanks to Rahul, his father got treated in Mumbai. He had also appeared for trials at MI,” Randhir said.
Unlike Kolkata, Chennai or Mumbai, Delhi club cricket isn’t a lucrative one as none of the clubs pay any money and there aren’t any formal contracts either.
“We never paid Suyash anything as in Delhi club cricket, no one gets a penny. Only if you are professional, playing for India and have been requested to play, there may be some financial takings,” Randhir explained.
The Madras Club is one of the well-known clubs in Delhi club circuit and its famous alumni include Virender Sehwag and Yuzvendra Chahal.
“There is something about our club that five spinners have played IPL so far. Pawan Negi, Pradeep Sahu, Tejas Baroka, Chahal and now Suyash. Our boys train at Jesus & Mary College (JMC) ground. It was in DDCA league last year that his fast googlies came into prominence and he got a lot of wickets,” Randhir said.
In Delhi cricket, unless one has a strong backing from a club or individual members, who control at least 10-15 votes, getting a chance in age-group teams is a Herculean achievement.
“He got seven wickets in DDCA Challenger Trophy tournament and thus got into Delhi U-25 team for white ball matches. But you know what is funny? He was dropped from red ball games (CK Nayudu Trophy) as he was seen as white ball player. If you don’t give someone a chance, how would you know,” Randhir asked.
How two Rajasthan Ranji stalwarts changed the course of their lives
Performance was in Suyash’s hands and he did that in DDCA Challenger Trophy, a trial tournament to select U-25 state team.
But that wasn’t enough as there were enough people in the DDCA circle, who also spread canards about Suyash that he was from Rajasthan domicile, which was chairman of selectors Gagan Khoda, and U-25 head coach Pankaj Singh’s state.
But that was a lie as the boy had played all his cricket in Delhi but both Pankaj and Gagan got him into the white ball team for the BCCI U-25 tournament.
“For me, all that mattered was the kind of talent that I saw in him during the trials. He was talented and I wanted him in the U-25 team,” said former India pacer Pankaj.
“As a coach, I wanted to check his basics. First things first, he could turn the ball off the surface.
“Uske haath mein spin karne ke ability thii.” He wasn’t very tall but the technique of delivery was good. And if you can bowl both leg-break (turns away from right-hander) and googly (turns into right hander) without any perceptible change in action, you are a special talent,” Pankaj said.
“In fact, the speed of his googly is almost the same as his leg-break. You will see a lot of wrist spinners are slower through the air and hence the pace of googly is slightly less.” How difficult is it for a player to straightaway shine in IPL without playing a single Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare or Syed Mushtaq Ali game? “It is difficult no doubt. I knew he had ability but does he have temperament to withstand the pressures of top-flight cricket? That was my question too.
“So before he went for KKR trials, I had a chat with him. Abhishek Nayar (one of the top men in KKR coaching staff) is a friend and I had recommended Suyash to Abhishek. I told him the ‘boy is good’ and wanted him to check if he could manage the pressure.”
Can he ace red-ball cricket?
While Randhir wants his ward to play red ball cricket, Pankaj, who has seen him in board matches wants the expectations to be tempered.
“You have to understand what kind of cricket he has played while growing up in Delhi. It is just 30 and 40-over games and that requires different bowling skill. I am not saying he can’t play but in Delhi, where you have On low and slow tracks, with shorter boundaries, it is difficult to vary pace.
“So when these bowlers, who bowl at a certain pace and length are used in day-games, the batters at first-class level milk them for easy boundaries. They would go for 3-4 runs per over and that’s a lot. But Speed of googlies and his release is such that he is sure-shot success in white-ball format,’ Pankaj added.
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