NEW DELHI: Remember Priyam Garg, the boy from Meerut, who captained the Indian team at the 2019 Under-19 World Cup? Priyam, who is known for his calm and composed demeanour just like former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, had led India to the World Cup final after beating top sides like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. India though faltered at the final hurdle and had to be content with the runners-up tag.
In the final, Priyam didn’t show any signs of panic though. After restricting India to 177, Bangladesh were tottering at 106 for 6, before their captain Akbar Ali got them back on track. A short rain break meant a revised target of 170 from 46 overs that saw Bangladesh taking away the title from India.
Priyam controlled his emotions and went up to the players and said ‘chin up, guys. You are the best’. His team-mates see shades of Dhoni in Priyam. The youngster after all has learnt the art of staying calm in crunch situations from his idol Dhoni.
The 19-year-old has never met Dhoni. But watching his cricket videos has motivated him a lot. Priyam has a collection of Dhoni’s match-winning and best knocks videos. He has watched those since he took up cricket and is honing his captaincy and batting under pressure skills from the 2011 ICC ODI World Cup winning captain.
“I follow Dhoni sir. He is my idol and inspiration. I follow his footsteps when it comes to batting or captaincy. I have learnt how to remain calm and adapt to any situation and condition from Dhoni sir. I have watched his batting videos very closely and learnt from those. I always watch his videos of matches in which he turned the game on its head with his captaincy, batting or field-setting skills,” Priyam told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
“Many times, we saw India losing five wickets for under 100 runs and then Dhoni took the team post 250. His knocks against Pakistan will always remain my favourite. He can calmly take the match deep and then shift gears. The way he judges the loose deliveries and then sends those out of the stadium is just mind blowing. Apart from this, his ability of running between the wickets is far superior than any player in the world. At his age, he is still so fit,” he said.
PRIYAM’S FAVOURITE DHONI INNINGS
Among his collection of videos, Priyam has tagged some of Dhoni’s videos as favourites.
“His innings of 113* vs Pakistan in 2012 in Chennai is one of my favourite innings. His 92* vs South Africa in 2015, 124 vs Australia in 2009 are also some of my favourite knocks by him. I have marked those videos as favourites in my collection. There are a number of his innings I watch to learn. I learn the batting and the art of captaincy from his videos,” Priyam told TimesofIndia.com.
“That’s what I learn from him – to analyse the situation and remain calm. I learn how he sets the field, how he is looking around and deciding on shot selection, how he is instructing a bowler from behind the wickets and what he tells bowlers when they are leaking runs,” the youngster said.
THE MEERUT CONNECTION
Priyam hails from Meerut, a town that produced players like Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Priyam’s tryst with cricket began at a very young age but he had to face financial hurdles. Priyam, who hails from a middle-class family, always wanted to be a world-class batsman, but the lack of cricket equipment forced him to miss many matches.
“It was the hunger of representing India that took me a long way. I was adamant about playing cricket. It was my passion for the sport that helped me grow. I can’t live without cricket. It was a challenge to come and play from a small town but I was hungry for this,” the 19 year old who has played 12 first class matches so far told TimesofIndia.com.
The youngster credited Bhuvneshwar Kumar and his relative Rakesh Yadav for helping him in the initial stage of his career.
“Bhuvi bhaiya is from my town. He has helped me a lot. I am still a kid in front of him. He has picked me up from my house and dropped me to the cricket ground in his car many times. I have seen hard times. I always wanted to be a batsman, so he provided me with cricket bats, gloves, pads and stumps too. He often asked me ‘do you need anything’? And, the next day he arranged that for me. He has always helped me a lot,” Priyam said.
“I want to also thank Rakesh bhaiya. He is like my brother. He has helped me a lot in my career. It was so difficult to buy a pair of cricketing shoes because those are so expensive. He ensured I had one. Whenever I needed something, he helped me a lot. He has played a big role in his career. He just asks me to concentrate on my career. I can’t stop thanking these two people who have helped a lot in my career,” Priyam said.
IPL CONTRACT WITH SUNRISERS HYDERABAD
When Priyam was leaving for South Africa for the Under-19 World Cup, he didn’t know that he would become a hot pick when the auctioneer called his name during the IPL 2020 Auctions.
When his name was called at the base price of Rs. 20 lakh, there was an intense bidding war between Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad. From a base price of Rs. 20 lakh, Priyam was bought for a whopping Rs. 1.90 crore by the Orange Army.
Priyam is keen to meet the big names in the Sunrisers’ camp and take advice from them.
“It’s my first IPL. I am so excited to be part of the Orange Army. For me, it (IPL) is a big platform. I am just 19 and I will see players who have a lot more experience than me. I want to go and learn from them. It is a platform where the players from all around the world come and perform under one roof. I am excited to go and share the dressing room with them,” he said.
“I want to meet Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, David Warner, Kane Williamson and Rohit Sharma and ask them how they prepare themself ahead of a match. I have a lot of questions in my notebook which I want to go and ask them. Fitness, mindset, mental strength, ability to handle pressure – I want to ask them all about those,” the youngster said.
“In the Sunrisers’ camp, I am really excited to meet Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow and ask these questions. It will be a pleasure to share the dressing room with these players. I want to hit the nets and face Bhuvi bhaiya, Mitchell Marsh, Khaleel and Rashid at the nets. They have a lot of variety in their bowling and I am sure it will take my batting to the next level,” the 19-year-old cricketer said.
India were chasing their fifth ICC U-19 World Cup title in the last edition under the leadership of Priyam. Mohammad Kaif (2010), Virat Kohli (2008), Unmukt Chand (2012) and Prithvi Shaw (2018) guided their teams to the title earlier.
Many cricketers from all the four World Cup-winning teams went on to represent the Indian senior team, including the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Venugopal Rao, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.
Priyam too, off course, wants to represent the senior India team.
“Every cricketer has a dream to represent his country someday. Not just represent, a player wants to achieve milestones and break records for his country. I also want to represent my country (senior team). I just don’t want to go and play some matches and sit back. I want to go and play for as long as possible. I want to play at least 100 to 150 Tests for India. That’s my ultimate goal. I am 19 right now and have time to prepare myself for the big stage.” Priyam signed off.