“Catch them young” – the coaches say. And why not; after all, Sachin Tendulkar was just 15 when he played his maiden first-class match and in doing so, captured the imagination of an entire country in the process.
With cricket still ranking high in popularity levels across kids in the country, young boys hauling a massive cricket kit across a playing field isn’t totally an uncommon sight. But not many pick up the game well enough to play a competitive match at five years of age.
Unless your name is Rudra Pratap.
Social media was abuzz today when the video of Pratap playing an U-14 match surfaced. The boy is just five years old!
The match apparently took place in 2014 and shows the kid walking out to bat in full cricketing apparel. Draped in batting gear from head to toe, young Pratap takes guard with three overs to spare in the T20 match.
Barely taller than the stumps, Pratap plays and misses quite often but when he does make contact, the talent is visible. He cuts, drives, flicks and then leaves a few balls just like a seasoned cricketer.
The bowlers, obviously realising that this is anything but ordinary, visibly ease up a bit. The fielders are seen sporting a smile and in between overs, the umpire has a brief word with Pratap as well.
But the 5-year-old carries on unperturbed. What’s also visible is the manner in which he walks away towards the square-leg umpire in between deliveries – akin to a top-flight batsman plotting his next move against a speedster.
The commentators enjoy the moment as well and laud the coaches for handing the boy a game in a big televised match.
Rishabh Pant grabbed headlines recently when he stroked a masterfull 308 against Delhi in a Ranji Trophy encounter at Mumbai. However, he wasn’t the youngest to score a first-class triple hundred. That record belongs to Javed Miandad who, at 17 years and 311 days, scored 311 in at Karachi during the 1974/75 season.
The youngest Indian to score a triple-century is the former Test cricketer Wasim Jaffer. Aged 18 years and 265 days, Jaffer scored an unbeaten 314 against Mumbai.
Swapnil Singh, at 14 years and 355 days, became the youngest to play Ranji Trophy cricket when he took the field for Baroda in 2006. The previous record incidentally was held by another Baroda lad – Saheb Jayendra Ghorpade – who made his Ranji Trophy debut at the age of 16 years, 113 days against Maharashtra during the 1954-55 season.
But none of them has anything on young Pratap!