Delhi's newly appointed captain Yash Dhull during his India U19 days. Image: ICC

Yash Dhull's journey from World Cup-winning U19 captain to leading Delhi Ranji team traced by his coaches

Yash Dhull is a name that has made teenage parents drag their kids out of their blankets and push them to clear hurdles on a path that leads to glory.

The Delhi youngster, who hails from Raghu Nagar in India’s capital city, has accomplished some remarkable deeds in 2022 which every aspiring cricketer wishes for.

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The year started with him lifting the ICC U19 World Cup title for India as their captain in February. This was followed by an astounding debut for Delhi in the 2022 Ranji Trophy as he scored twin centuries against Tamil Nadu.

He was sold to the Delhi Capitals in the IPL mega auction and featured in the Duleep Trophy for North Zone. By the end of the year in December, an opportunity to lead his state side in the Ranji Trophy popped up.

To trace Yash Dhull’s journey from his academy days in age-group cricket, Sportskeeda caught up with one of his coaches, Pradeep Kochar. He has seen the prodigious player's growth from close proximity.

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“He came to me at Airliner Cricket Academy when he was seven or eight years old and from then, he has been regularly coming to Bharati college and played different levels of cricket like U16 and U19,” Kochar told Sportskeeda.
“From the beginning, he was very intelligent and wanted to bat for a very long time. He would come in the afternoon at 1:30 PM to the academy and would stay till 6-7 PM. He wanted to do something in batting. Skill-wise, he was very strong with his basics. I told him, he adopted it very well and tried to improve what was wrong in his batting. And mentally, he is very strong and has adapted very well to the situations in the academy matches."
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Yash Dhull's leadership qualities

There is always an endless debate about leadership, whether it is an inherited trait or can be learned through experience. Yash Dhull is one of those players who had innate leadership qualities from a very young age, as Kochar explained:

“When he joined us, he was very active and he wanted to control all the small boys in their group. We made him captain of the U16 team when he was 13 or 14. The best part is that he controls the team very well and I am talking about this when he was in the academy.”
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Rajesh Nagar was Yash’s coach at the Bal Bhawan International School in New Delhi’s Dwarka locality. He described the procedure by which they groomed a schoolboy Yash to be a leader.

“When he was playing U-12, we gave him the captaincy role as he was very energetic on the grounds. He had a great mindset and would trust his gut feeling more often. Most of the decisions he made went in his favour. So we had to groom him at an early stage and, thereafter, he captained the U14, U-16, and U-19 sides of Delhi. So, this is the procedure where he was groomed, and hopefully he does well now.”

The India U19 team won six straight games to clinch their fifth title in the Caribbean, with four of those games being played under Yash Dhull. The then U19 captain scored 229 runs in four innings at an average of 76.33, including a fifty and a century. Yash Dhull was named the captain of ICC’s U19 Team of the Tournament.

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Speaking about how Yash was named the captain of the India U19 team, Kochar said:

“In the U19 World Cup, he wasn't the captain first. Shaik Rasheed was the captain, but the selectors saw him controlling the team very well and they made him the captain based on his attitude and body language.”
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Coach Nagar explained what makes the 20-year-old a good leader and talked about the factors that helped him improve his decision-making powers.

"Yash is an x-factor who is a team player and never thinks about his individual performance. His mindset is of a team man even if he goes for a duck or scores 100. His mindset and body language is to support the players and take everyone along with him. That's why many times under his captaincy, things have gone in his favour."

Yash Dhull, the new Delhi Ranji captain

In a move to restore the fortunes of their red-ball cricket, the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) have passed the team’s captaincy reins to a young Yash Dhull. They hope that he would lead Delhi to their first Ranji title in 15 years.

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Speaking on the challenges of leading a state team like Delhi, Rajesh Nagar feels that Yash will handle the captaincy pressure as he is not a stranger to it. He would fit in that role even though the level of competition is different.

"There is definitely a responsibility there to lead a Ranji Trophy team and that too, a team like Delhi where players like Nitish Rana have played at different levels (like IPL), [It] will be challenging. But the way he led India to the U19 World Cup [triumph] and has been consistently captaining in age groups, he will manage these things and hopefully Delhi do well and qualify for the knockouts. These things are not new for him, but managing the seniors is something new.”
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Kochar believes that the team's senior players and head coach Abhay Sharma should support and guide Yash Dhull in crunch situations. The 63-year-old player, who played four first-class games for Assam and Delhi, said:

"It's a difficult job when you are young and leading a side with players who have played so many years of international and domestic cricket. In my feeling, the seniors have to support him as it will be good for Delhi."

Kochar added:

"He needs support from the seniors also because he is too young and early. Players like Nitish Rana and Dhruv Shorey will play a big role here as they have so many years of experience in domestic cricket. Even Abhay, the coach of Delhi Ranji team, is a senior guy, a very good coach, and a positive guy.”
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Interestingly, veteran pace bowler Ishant Sharma, 34, the oldest member of the Delhi team with 105 Test caps for India, will play under Yash Dhull, the youngest member of the 18-man squad.

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Many Twitter users praised the DDCA's move to name a young captain, with some pointing out that Yash was four years old when Ishant made his Test debut against Bangladesh in May 2007.

Nagar mentioned that Ishant has shown his support to the rookie captain and there won’t be any age barrier between the two when they take the field together. Yash Dhull’s school coach also pointed out that junior players should respect their seniors in order to build a healthy environment within the team.

"Ishant Sharma has supported him a lot as he (Yash) was telling me in our recent conversation during the one-day games (Vijay Hazare Trophy). The senior player had the ideology that those players who want to play for Delhi in the future, we need to back them. Yash said that the senior players supported him, and it wasn't an easy call for the selectors (to name a young captain)."
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Nagar further added about Yash Dhull's captaincy prospects:

"Here, the behavior and body language of a youngster matters the most. If any kid is well-behaved and respects his senior players, then the seniors also enjoy playing the game with their juniors.
"Junior players make their seniors, their role models. For instance, when MS Dhoni was handed the captaincy, Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his good mindset. So this is how seniors support you.”
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Nagar narrated one incident during one of his Yash Dhull's club games where he was involved in leading a bunch of players more than his age. It wasn’t an easy task for the youngster to get the job done by his teammates, but his coach’s practical lessons helped him keep his head above water.

“I will tell you one incident when, I think, he was 15 years of age. There were some senior guys in the club like Anuj Rawat, Hrithik Shokeen, Dinesh Mor, and Kshitij Sharma. I gave the captaincy experience and during the innings break, he comes and tells me, 'Sir, this is very difficult, Yeh bhaiya ko bolta hun toh voh nahi sunte, inko bolta hun toh yeh nahi sunte (if I tell this player he doesn't listen to me and even that one does not).
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“So here me, Ankit Maini, and Yash sat down and I told him that you have to give respect to your seniors and get the job done from them. As a captain, you have to ensure to get the best out of each of your players."

Nagar also mentioned Yash Dhull's NCA experience:

“So he has faced such things before and at NCA, even VVS Laxman has stressed on the concept of captaining senior players in your side. How do you back a senior player who is not 100 percent sure about his form and how do you need to give him confidence."

The newly appointed Delhi skipper has scored 820 runs in 8 first-class matches at an average of 74.54 with four centuries to his name. He has accumulated 479 runs in three games, including three centuries, at an average of 119.75. He slammed 193 runs on his Duleep Trophy debut for North Zone against East Zone in the second quarter-final.

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Yash Dhull made his captaincy debut for Delhi with 40 runs against Maharashtra on Tuesday, December 13, in Pune. He was deceived by the extra bounce from his U19 teammate Rajvardhan Hangargekar as Kaushal Tambe took a brilliant catch at first slip to complete the dismissal.

Kochar said Yash will not only have the responsibility to lead the side but also ensure that his batting performance doesn't dip.

“He will take more responsibility as a captain. Last year, he scored many runs under Nitish Rana but this time he has to take responsibility of a captain and his own performance. It is very difficult for a captain to maintain his performance, but I think he is a sharp-minded boy and he can do it.”

Nagar believes that Yash Dhull won’t keep tab of his past performances when he starts the new season and will take every innings as a new challenge. The childhood coach backed Yash Dhull's shot selection and said playing in Bangladesh for India A would add to his experience.

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“As far as I know, Yash Dhull, he never looks at his past records and plays every match at a time. If he is set on the wicket, then he will not throw it away unless a good ball beats him. He would never get out on poor shots.”

He added:

“When players think too much about their performance, then they don't enjoy the game and their batting. He has been in good touch and is coming from the India A tour (to Bangladesh) and the confidence will be high. I think he will make more runs from last year as there are more matches this time.”

Even though Yash Dhull didn’t get a game for Delhi Capitals in IPL 2022, he learned the art of playing pull shots to counter the short balls. Nagar feels that Ricky Ponting’s lessons should benefit the youngster in the upcoming season as well.

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“We have had discussions on this (IPL dressing room experience). If an age group player plays with higher-ranked players at international level, then there is a different environment. He was in more touch with Ricky Ponting and he taught him how to play the short balls.
“Ponting sir gave him some inputs about batting and playing the pull shot. He spoke to him on where to keep his bat position and where to put the weight on it. So these small things should help him and hopefully he has a great season.”

So, Yash Dhull has the skill, the mindset, and the traits to succeed. Let's hope he puts them to good use.

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Edited by
Akshay Saraswat
 
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