Manjot Kalra: Gritty lad who scored runs against establishment
New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) There is a saying in Delhi cricket: 'You become a star only if you are not a product of the system' and India's U-19 World Cup hero Manjot Kalra is a perfect example.
Whether it was maverick Virender Sehwag or a brash Virat Kohli -- everyone had tales to tell about the kind of treatment they got from Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) at least once during their junior or senior days.
Kohli had in fact had gone on record how he was left heartbroken when he was not selected for a Delhi U-15 team in his first year despite scoring tons of runs.
Sehwag also had issues with the administration and so did the fiery Gautam Gambhir.
And latest star in the making Manjot's case is also no different as he had to fight multiple allegations of age-fraud before he shone brightest at the world stage -- a hundred in the U-19 World Cup final against Australia emulating Unmukt Chand's feat in the 2012 edition.
"He came to me six years back at the Bharat Nagar Cricket Academy (home of famous LB Shastri Club). He had the talent and also great hand-eye co-ordination. He has been a prolific scorer at the age-group level and his performance doesn't surprise me at all," his childhood coach Sanjay Bhardwaj told PTI today.
Popularly known as 'Guruji' in Delhi cricket circle, Bhardwaj has been a childhood coach Gambhir and Unmukt apart from IPL sensation Nitish Rana.
He has a word of caution for Manjot.
"One shouldn't let this initial success get into his head. There is a lot of room for improvement in his batting. Obviously he will have to work hard on his footwork. But above everything else, he will have to score 1000 runs in Ranji Trophy," said Bhardwaj, who has witnessed Gambhir's rise as top international batsman and Unmukt's downfall after showing enormous early promise.
"He (Manjot) is a good kid. Obedient and hardworking. But I would give a lot of credit to his father Parveen and mother Ranjeet as they were so passionate.
"Parveen had sent his elder son Hitesh to me but he couldn't make it big and now helps his father in their family business. But Parveen and Hitesh were very keen that I guide Manjot and I am happy that the kid has done well," said Bhardwaj, known for being Delhi's best talent spotter apart from Tarak Sinha.
But a few months back, life was not a bed of roses for Adarsh Nagar resident Parveen Kalra, who is a well-off fruits wholesaler at Azadpur Sabzi Mandi (Delhi's biggest fruit and vegetable market).
A few parents complained to DDCA administrator Justice (Retd) Vijkramajit Sen that Manjot's age is fudged.
In fact, a faction in DDCA had filed an FIR against a number of junior cricketers couple of years back with Manjot's name figuring in that list.
The BCCI by then had done his age-verification tests, which he had passed but to be a part of Delhi's U-19 squad, his medical reports were once again sought. This, at a time when he was already a part of India U-19 probables.
Then Delhi's senior selectors ignored Kalra's talent during the start of the Ranji season with a logic that Delhi's U-19 team needed him more.
This was at a time when India's U-19 chief coach Rahul Dravid wanted more and more boys to play Ranji Trophy.
"We had a tough time with false police complaints being filed. But truth prevailed as we always knew where Manjot stood. His father and brother Hitesh had made lot of sacrifices and are behind Manjot's success," Manjot's cousin brother Chetan Kalra recollected days of hardship.
The Kalras are a big joint family and now they are eagerly waiting for Manjot to come back and join the celebrations.
"Uncle is yet to speak to Manjot as celebrations are on over there in New Zealand. After he comes back, he will enrol for his graduation course through correspondence. He had completed his 12th standard in private as he had to change schools regularly," Chetan informed.
Manjot Kalra's journey has just begun and in Delhi it can get more intriguing if not interesting. Till then, he is another uncut diamond that Delhi keeps producing in abundance