When my good friend Vidyuth Jaisimha called me and invited me to a dinner with the Hyderabad Under 22 team that he had coached so effectively, the other evening, I was only too happy to go. Vidyuth always makes it a point to invite me for a chat with whichever team that he is coaching and I am only too glad to go and chat up the boys and get them to focus on the game. And so he did with the Under 22 team this year, led by the young and academic looking Parth Jhala which almost made it to the All India semi-finals had it not been for the one bad match they had against Jharkhand. Now they have one match left, against Delhi, and if they win this game, they will qualify for the Elite group where they belong.
It is a strong side. Four players are now in the ranji side - Parth Jhala, Basheer,Vihari and Sandeep. Sandeep has scored a hundred on debut in heroic fashion and the prolific and high scoring Vihari will get his chance soon. Benjamin Thomas who was in the Ranji probables is waiting in the wings. The side also feeds the Under 19 side with some key players going to play some games there. One look at the youngsters and you know that they are all confident young men with lots of talent. A little direction and guidance and they will do wonders for themselves.
The evening was pleasant. Hosted at Sailing Club, it was on the first floor overlooking the Husain Sagar lake. We caught up chatted and then Vidyuth spoke and so did I and Ganesh. We congratulated the team on doing so well, on Sandeep and Vihari performing well in the Ranji team and of the greater things they cold go on to achieve. Vidyuth asked them to go and win the Delhi match for him and thereby get into the Elite side next.
When I spoke I told them that this is a time for preparation and they must all prepare fully for their eventual induction into the first class sides. And that they were fortunate to have a coach like Vidyuth who has both the patience and the integrity to earn their respect. Most of all it is Vidyuth's genuine good intentions, to see the boys play well and succeed, and play higher grades of cricket that stand out. And that I told them, was one reason why most of his players display that sign of growth, character. Be it Parth who scored three hundreds in a row, Vihari who scored in the U 16 side, Sandeep who did so well on first class debut, all the boys display character which they could really use to succeed in their lives.
Couple of things were interesting. Sandeep when asked if he had ever dreamt that he would make his debut and get a hundred smiled shyly and said 'Yes'. That is the power of dreams! And both Sandeep and Vihari gave the others tremendous confidence when they said '..it was easier than playing this level sir' and '...found no difference sir' respectively.
On the way home I was accompanied by the young Benjamin Thomas and we had a little chat on how he could plan on getting out of his lean patch. He appears to be a grounded young man, dealing with too much, the pressure of making his Ranji debut imminent, and that seems to be on his mind. I told him to stop worrying about that and play simply. He spoke earnestly, asked many questions and appeared relieved after the discussion. I hope he gets some runs this game against Delhi.
When we left Vidyuth was still around nursing a drink with Sai and Ganesh for company. There will soon be a day when Vidyuth will be the coach for the Hyderabad Ranji team and then, it will only be right that these young boys that he has coached, are around to help him bring back the Ranji Trophy to Hyderabad. I know in my gut that if anyone can do it, it will be Vidyuth and his team. Meanwhile, my young friends and my old freind, keep preparing for the big war that is still a few years away!