At 12, Bihar's Vaibhav Sooryavanshi is making strides in Indian domestic cricket | Crickit

At 12, Bihar's Vaibhav Sooryavanshi is making strides in Indian domestic cricket

By, Kolkata
Jan 12, 2024 06:59 PM IST

Vaibhav was a regular at school till class 3. But after his father decided he must play at a more serious level, Vaibhav goes to school only to write exams.

Vaibhav Sooryavanshi is too young to vote, drive, open a savings account by himself or get into a legal contract. But when it comes to opening the batting for the Bihar Ranji Trophy team, he is considered old enough. At 12 years, 284 days, Vaibhav is easily the youngest cricketer to have made his Ranji Trophy debut in the last four decades. Ashutosh Aman, Vaibhav’s captain against Mumbai last week, has 25 years on him. His opening partner Sharman Nigrodh is 18, the average age of the Mumbai’s bowling attack is 28, but that didn’t deter Vaibhav from taking them on with a flurry of boundaries.

Vaibhav Sooryavanshi with Wasim Jaffer(HT) PREMIUM
Vaibhav Sooryavanshi with Wasim Jaffer(HT)

“He was never afraid of playing with boys much older than him,” said his father Sanjeev from Samastipur district’s Tajpur. “When he was nine or 10, I used to make him face the local fast bowlers. And he always went behind the ball and hooked or pulled it. By God’s grace, he has never been hit or injured. But he was also very fearless. Even against Mumbai, he told me ‘Papa I was out but I wasn’t afraid.”

Scores of 19 or 12 on Ranji debut barely tell anything about a batter but the fact that it came against a champion side like Mumbai probably means something. “Both times he was caught at the boundary because he tried to be too aggressive, I guess. There was a fair bit of crowd, so he was probably a bit nervous too,” said Sanjeev. “He probably didn’t factor in the height of Shivam Dube, who is six feet four,” said Manoj Ojha, Vaibhav’s first professional coach. “But it’s okay. He has enough time to consolidate, learn and improve,” said Ojha, himself a former Bihar and Jharkhand Ranji player.

Vaibhav was around seven when Sanjeev brought him to Ojha’s academy in Patna. “He was little but his technique was impressive. He had a very natural batting flow, the basics were sorted. There was potential,” said Ojha. The initial trigger, as is the case with almost every Indian cricketer, came from Vaibhav’s father. “I used to play at the district level. So in the back of my mind, I always wanted one of my sons to be a cricketer. At five, Vaibhav (his younger son) used to play with my bat so I thought why not.”

What followed is more or less the story with every cricketing aspiration in India. Vaibhav was a regular at school till class 3. But after his father decided he must play the game at a more serious level, Vaibhav goes to school only to write his exams. Dreams of playing for India, along with an IPL contract perhaps, drove Sanjeev to take Vaibhav to Patna for better training.

The returns have been more than encouraging. In the Hayman Trophy — a state level tournament — Vaibhav aggregated 620 runs. In the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, Vaibhav scored 393 runs in five innings, including a hundred against Haryana. Promising skills at the U-19 Challenger Trophy held in Assam last October encouraged selectors to pick him for the U-19 Quadrangular series (involving Bangladesh, England and Australia) in November, where he had scores of 53, 75, 0, 41, 0 and 8. “That is where he really impressed Wasim Jaffer (who was coaching Bangladesh) and VVS Laxman (head of the NCA),” said Sanjeev. “Laxman sir said he will keep an eye out for him for the next (World Cup) cycle so let’s see.”

Such is the competition for a place in the national setup that a first-class debut at 12, preceded by a couple of promising innings at the U-19 level still may not result in anything fruitful. But having started so young, Vaibhav has the kind of head start very few cricketers get in India. His task, according to Ojha, is cut out. “Bihar are underdogs but they play strong teams like Mumbai, UP and Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. So, bat well against them and you will be recognised. This is where IPL scouts come. Deodhar, Duleep Trophy selections happen here. So, Vaibhav must perform every day,” he said.

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