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    A couple of years ago, while playing an invitational U-19 tournament in Pune, the organisers were amazed by the six-hitting prowess of Sachin Dhas and checked the bat’s size to ensure that he was not cheating.

    “He is not a muscular guy and back then he was not this tall as well. So him hitting big sixes caught the attention of the organisers and they checked the width of his bat. After a few minutes, they cleared him but they were in shock,” Sachin Dhas’ coach Sheikh Azhar narrates the story to the Indian Express.

    Cut to the present, Dhas, who will turn 19 on Saturday, scored a match-winning 116 as India trounced Nepal by 132 runs at Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein and secured their semifinal spot in the U-19 World Cup.

    Before Friday, Dhas had never played more than 20 balls in an inning in the tournament. In the last four matches, he has scored 26 not out (20b), 21 not out (9b), 20 (16b), and 15 (11b). He was given the role of a finisher. Against Nepal, India lost three quick wickets and were in a spot of bother, when Dhas joined forces with skipper Uday Saharan (110) and put on a match-winning 215-run stand for the fourth wicket as India posted 297 for 5. Another clinical bowling display from left-arm spinner Saumy Pandey (4/29) helped India restrict Nepal to 165 for 9.

    U19 (L-R), Sachin Dhas with his father Sanjay Dhas, mother Surekha Dhas and sister Pratiksha Dhas (Special Arrangement)

    “Before the tournament, he told me that the team had given him the role of a finisher and he won’t be able to face many balls. I blasted him saying, ‘play like a finisher, don’t be so selfish.’

    Festive offer

    “Whether you are getting ten balls or ten overs, you must give 100 per cent to the team. Tu bas team ke vaaste khel (You just play for the team),” he recalls telling him.

    The birthday present

    Sanjay Dhas, who named his son after his second favourite cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, is having the best time of his life as his son has given him the best gift on his birthday.

    “I turned 51 today. Tomorrow is Sachin’s birthday, he will be 19. This day and this moment will never come again in our lives. This is the best gift a son can give to his father. It’s kind of a double delight or triple since we will celebrate his birthday on Saturday,” says Sanjay, who works in the health department in the Maharashtra government.

    “I am a big Sunil Gavaskar fan but I named him after my second favourite, Sachin Tendulkar so that growing up he could connect with him. Abhi iska generation Gavaskar sir ko kya samjhega (This generation might not understand Sunil Gavaskar). He wears No 10 because he adores Tendulkar,” says the proud father.

    U19 Sachin Dhas (left) with his father Sanjay Dhas (Special Arrangement)

    Sanjay’s wife Surekha Dhas is an Assistant Police Inspector (API) in Maharashtra Police and was an athlete in her time. They were state-level Kabaddi players, while Sanay also played cricket till the University level.

    “I had decided before he was even born that he would become a cricketer. His training started when he was only four and a half years old. My wife initially opposed this idea, but once he started playing age-group cricket with the state, she also joined the partnership. Our daughter Pratiksha is preparing for UPSC in Pune and my wife is happy that at least one kid is good at studies,” laughs Sanjay.

    The water crisis in Beed

    Sanjay recalls how every other year life almost comes to a halt in Beed due to drought and he credits coach Azhar, who not only trained his son but went beyond to make him the cricketer, he is today.

    “In Beed, there was never a turf wicket. It was in 2011, after India won the World Cup, we were celebrating at the academy and Azhar bhai came to me and said if we want Sachin to be seen on the big screen, we must build turf wickets. ‘Bhau ye mat pe khel kar humare jaisa reh jayega (He will become like us if he continues to play on the matting wicket),” recalls Sanjay.

    From the next morning, Azhar with the help of Sanjay started preparing turf wickets. The duo borrowed money to get a roller and in three months, prepared six turf wickets.

    “We did it against all odds,” says Azhar.

    But the problem was how to keep it in good shape. The drought in the region made things difficult for Azhar.

    “Water crisis is acute in Beed. Every second or third day, I used to call up a water tanker (2000 litre). We used to collect money and thus those wickets have survived till now. Around 50 kids from different age groups used to train under me, the numbers have doubled since Sachin was picked for India U-19,” says Azhar.

    Sanjay says there is a celebration at the academy but Sheikh Azhar hasn’t stopped crying since he scored the century.

    “Mere se jyada unka beta hai (He is more his (Azhar) son than mine. If not for Azhar, my dream would have died, and Sachin would never have reached this level. He has looked after him like his own son and whenever he talks about Sachin, there will be tears in his eyes. Mere bete ko ek achha insaan banaaya hai (He has made my son a good human being),” says Sanjay.

    U19 Sachin Dhas with his childhood coach Sheikh Azhar (Special Arrangement)

    During the tournament, Sachin showed great game awareness and did the most difficult job for his team. The boy from Beed understands the meaning of a team because it took one to get him to this level.

    Brief Scores

    India U-19: 297 for 5 in 50 overs (Sachin Dhas 116, Uday Saharan 110; Gulsan Jha 3/56)

    Nepal U-19: 165 for 9 in 50 overs (Dev Khana 33, Durgesh Gupta 29; Saumy Pandey 4/27).

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