PUNE: Maharashtra opener Yash Nahar visualized himself doing well against Mumbai – the biggies of Indian cricket – and did it. Just that he might not have imagined the difficulty of a situation. In only his second List A game, he scored his maiden century (119 off 133) against Mumbai in Jaipur last week in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. What makes his valiant effort in a losing cause so special?
Dhawal Kulkarni had reduced Maharashtra to 38 for 4. All established batsmen – captain Ruturaj Gaikwad, World Cupper Kedar Jadhav, Naushad Shaikh and Ankit Bawne – were dismissed.
Nahar and Azim Kazi (104) then put on 214 for the fifth wicket to thwart the Mumbai attack of India players – Dhawal, Shardul Thakur and Shivam Dubey – to take the team to 279-9. Maharashtra were eventually undone by Shreyas Iyer‘s unbeaten 103 but the opener had left his mark.
Nahar, 26, who plays for the Poona Club in the city, was Maharashtra’s top scorer (390 runs) in the tournament. His scores – 52, 119, 55, 45 and 119. “For a newcomer, the way he built his innings, was beautiful to watch,” said Maharashtra coach Santosh Jedhe. “It is a credit to his skills and the way he took in our message ‘Stay on the wicket and keep playing your game.’ was magnificent.
“Cricket can be a hard game for a rookie. Playing against the big names, (of Indian cricket) one can often get conscious or awestruck and to overcome that is credible. It is not just against Mumbai but in all five games he was the anchor of our batting.”
Nahar, a commerce graduate, started playing age-group cricket (U-14) for Kataria High School and used to train at Cricket Next Academy before moving to the Poona Club four years back. He trains under Shakil Shaikh and Sanjay Ladkat is his coach at the club.
“Yash is talented so this performance was expected from him once he got the opportunity,” said Sanjay Ladkat, who is a coach at the Poona Club for 17 years. “After the first couple of games, when we spoke, I made him realise that so far he has done well to retain the opening slot and it is up to him to make it count and he did it with two fifties and two centuries.”
The opportunity hasn’t come easy for Yash. He was in the team for the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy but did not get a game. The same season, in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20, he was out for a first-ball duck on debut and had three ducks in his seven innings.
“An opportunity wasted,” Nahar recalled. “Obviously, I wasn’t picked for T20s this year. I took that opportunity to work on my batting, fitness and temperament and Maharashtra Cricket Association showed faith in my ability after doing well in trial games.
“It wasn’t until 23 I realised that If I wish to see my parents happy, who have supported my game, I must focus on the game and not get distracted. It’s the only way I can make a career in cricket and now is the only time it can happen,” he said.
The Covid-curtailed season ends here for the team. But Yash is determined about making that Maharashtra opening slot his in all three formats.