India’s Under-19 left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar still remembers the net sessions he had, bowling to his uncle Virender Sehwag at the Ferozeshah Kotla a few years back. It was during the school holidays that such net sessions could happen as youngster was studying at the Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. These net sessions and encouragement from Sehwag made Dagar join Shimla Cricket Academy to pursue his dream of becoming a cricketer.
Six years later, Dagar performed well for the India U-19 team in Sri Lanka and emerged as the joint highest wicket-taker along with K Ahmed in the Tri Nation tournament with seven wickets in his kitty. This performance also sealed Dagar’s place for India U-19 ICC World Cup team that will compete in Bangladesh in January 2016.
“It was like a dream come true for me when I first got selected in the India U-19 team. Then it was overwhelming to have Rahul Dravid as a coach. It was my first major break. I was thrilled as well as nervous,” said Dagar.
He picked five wickets in the three matches he played in the quadrangular series in Kolkata besides the seven wickets in the tournament in Sri Lanka. With the wickets in Bangladesh likely to assist spinners, Dagar would play an important role for his team.
Dagar’s father, Jitender Dagar played cricket for Delhi University and wanted his son also to become a cricketer. So it was natural for his son to pick up the sport. His mother is former India cricketer Virender Sehwag’s cousin.
"I really look upto Viru uncle. He along with my father has been my inspiration. Both have encouraged me to follow my dreams. I do discuss my game with Viru uncle whenever he is free. I hope to do well in the World Cup and help the team win,” shared Dagar, who idolises New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori and Virender Sehwag.
Dagar is coached by Yogender Puri and Anuj Pal Dass back in Shimla where he is a class XII student at Laureate Public School.
Pacer Sandeep Sharma undergoing rehab at NCA
Punjab pacer Sandeep Sharma, who underwent surgery for his injured right shoulder in October, is undergoing rehabilitation and strengthening at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru for five weeks now. The 22-year-old pacer from Patiala is under the supervision of former Indian physiotherapist Andrew Leipus and hopes to start bowling in January.
Sandeep, Punjab’s frontline fast bowler had to miss the domestic season so far due to the injury. The pacer missed the season’s action at a time when Punjab qualified for the Ranji Trophy 2015-16 knock-outs and made it to the quarter-finals in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16.
Speaking about missing the season so far, he said, “It gets irritating when you really want to play for your team and contribute, but you cannot.
The season could have been crucial for me. I could have made my case strong for Indian team's selection for Australia and also the World T20.
The Punjab teammates have been keeping in touch with me over the phone and keep motivating me. I want to just concentrate on my recovery and get back to bowling in January. I want to be fit ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) season nine,” said Sharma, one of the finds for Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2014 after having finished as their leading wicket-taker. Earlier, he had missed India ‘A’ tour to Australia and the Champions League T20 in 2014 due to a stress fracture in his back.
Sandeep rose to glory after his two U-19 World Cup appearances for India. He was drafted in the Punjab Ranji Trophy team in 2011. Since his debut against Uttar Pradesh, he has been successful for Punjab and along with pacer Siddharth Kaul has been the team’s strength in the bowling department for four seasons.
“I am confident of my recovery and also of the fact that I would be fitter than before when I take on the field. My rehab is going well and I am focusing on my target. I got the surgery done at the right time; otherwise I would have struggled more and would have been sitting at home for a longer period. I will be fresh and raring to go once I have recovered and regained fitness,” shared Sandeep, who made his India T20 debut against Zimbabwe in July this year. He went under the knife on October 23 in Mumbai just a week before the Ranji Trophy kicked-off.
Sandeep has played in 27 first-class matches and scalped 111 dismissals. He played his last match for India ‘A’ before the surgery against Australia ‘A’ in Chennai.
Siddharth Kaul, a mentor for other Punjab bowlers
Punjab’s hopes crashed in Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16 as they lost to Himachal Pradesh in the knock-out match played in Bengaluru, but pacer Siddharth Kaul’s spell allowed them a glimmer of hope. His opening spell yielded two quick wickets, as he knocked out openers Ankush Bains and Prashant Chopra in no time, putting HP on backfoot in reply to Punjab’s score of 263 runs. Then again Kaul stuck in the next spell removing in-form Rishi Dhawan. But his spell three for 42 went in vain as they lost the quarter-final match.
“It was disappointing to lose the match, but credit goes to the HP team. We had been playing well in the Ranji Trophy and in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with full strength, it was not our day,” said the 25-year-old, who had been Punjab’s frontline bowler in absence of the injured Sandeep Sharma. Siddharth had a good season with the ball as he bagged 15 wickets in the league phase of Ranji Trophy 2015-16 and 19 scalps in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Losing bowling partner Sandeep, meant Siddharth had to shoulder the responsibility of Punjab’s pace bowling department. Pacers - Barinder Sran and Deepak Bansal shared the new ball with Kaul for Punjab. “Sandy and I are like the best combination. He knows my bowling and I know his. We complemented each other quite well. Yuvi Paaji (Yuvraj Singh) and Bhajji Paaji (Harbhajan Singh) told me at the start of the season that being a seasoned and more experienced fast bowler, I should be helping others out in the bowling department. And it went well.
Sran being a left-arm bowler complemented me well. When we were bowling in tandem, we got lot of wickets and the left and right-hand bowling combo did the trick,” shared Kaul, who is now eyeing success in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament followed by Ranji Trophy knock-outs.
Siddharth, like elder brother Uday Kaul comes from their cricketer father Dr. Tej Pal Kaul’s cricket nursery. Having played 35 first-class matches and taken 112 wickets, Kaul has come a long way. He made his Ranji Trophy debut in 2007 against Odisha. In the same year he was part of the India U-19 team that clinched the World Cup in Malaysia. Currently attached with Hyderabad Sunrisers in IPL, Kaul wants to make most of the remaining season and strengthen his case for India ‘A’ team.