Exclusive: The making of champions - India’s U19 success story, Inside info of Rahul Dravid’s Indiranagar ka Gunda theme

Sportslumo caught up with Shiv Dhawan, the 20-year-old author of the book ‘The Making of the Champions – India’s Under-19 story’ in which he talks about the domestic and Under-19 scene as well as an interesting anecdote on Rahul Dravid and his ‘sledging’ ability.

CRICKET BOOKS MAKING OF THE CHAMPIONS

When it comes to the game of cricket, there are a lot of books written about the history of the game. There are biographies and autobiographies of all major sporting stars that have contributed immensely to the growth of the game. But, in a country like India, one individual has already exploited a gap on a subject where there is very limited information. In India, our international cricketers get a lot of limelight. During modern times, players who play the IPL are highlighted in a big way.

But, when one talks about domestic cricketers or Under-19 cricketers, there is hardly any information on them. The struggles, the way how they managed to get into India’s robust cricket system and their journey is something few have chronicled. One of them is Shiv Dhawan, a 20-year-old from Ghaziabad.

Shiv Dhawan’s inspiration to write on Under-19 cricket

Shiv Dhawan is like any ordinary Indian. A cricket fanatic, an individual with immense knowledge of the sport, and also with a passion to write. His journey began as a 17-year-old when he decided to chronicle the success story of India in Under-19 cricket. The country has won the Under-19 World Cup the most number of times. In this decade alone, India has won two and reached the final in two editions.

To chronicle the success of the Indian Under-19 cricket team, Shiv Dhawan recently launched a book called ‘The Making of Champions –India’s Under-19 Story’. The book focused on how India has achieved success at the Under-19 level and also chronicled the domestic structure of the country. There were inputs also from past Under-19 winners like Tanmay Shrivastava, Ashok Menaria, Baba Aparajith, Shahbaz Nadeem, and many others.

Apart from the passion to write, he also launched his own company called Square The One in which he would contribute to the growth of Indian domestic cricket not from the inside but from the outside. Sportslumo caught up with Shiv Dhawan recently over his book and what are his plans. The interview revealed an interesting insight into the book, his passion for Square The One, and how Rahul Dravid as ‘Indiranagar ka Gunda’ meme which became viral in 2020/21 actually had its roots in the 2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup

Excerpts from the interview

At such a young age, what prompted you to write a book on Under-19 cricketers?

I was 16 years old when I started writing. I had my own blog and I started writing posts on Facebook. It gave me some kind of recognition. Some websites even offered me a chance to write. I realized at that time that I am 17, why I can’t write about cricketers who are my age? Why don’t I write about the guys who are playing Under-19 cricket and domestic cricket? The key thing is when you are 17 years of age, you have to cover cricket of the age that they play.

I decided to cover this journey as I relate to them. I could not pursue cricket due to medical reasons. Everyone looks at Virat Kohlis, KL Rahuls. Who is covering Tammay Shrivastava? He once led Virat Kohli in the U-19 World Cup and was the leading run-getter. We wanted to highlight this. I think I have achieved this.

What were the major obstacles that you encountered in doing the book?

The first obstacle to anything is starting. I have started this and now I have to finish it. You have to finish it like Dhoni. I had a co-author as we kept motivating each other. The next major issue was coordination. When you have to coordinate with 10 cricketers, that coordination is a major issue. Finding those cricketers who are not in the limelight is a huge challenge. I spoke to Ashok Menaria, Baba Parajith, and Tanmay, finding those talents to have them on a video call and have discussions with them.

I was speaking to Shahbaz Nadeem. He was playing for U19 cricket he had played in 2006. India lost in the final but he said in the semi-final. The lad has played 15 more years after that. The other challenge was fact-checking. To verify those stories was a huge obstacle. You cannot expect people to remember what had happened 15 years ago.

The other issue was I needed a foreword from Rahul Dravid. A book on Under-19 cricket without him is useless. I tried approaching him but he was busy with India vs Sri Lanka. This made me very upset. I did not write anything for a couple of days.

When sports stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic, how did you motivate yourself?

When the pandemic struck, I was in Dharamshala for the India vs South Africa ODI. It got canceled and the coronavirus lockdown took place. Cricket fans were stressed due to the pandemic. I started with my Instagram live session and I began with Chaitanya Bishnoi. The request was to discuss his IPL experience. I did about 25 such sessions. Along with that, I spoke to a lot of FC Cricketers like Tushar Deshpande and Sreesanth and I observed that these players are worried.

Ranji Trophy was not happening. We had to do something for them. That was when Square The One came about. I wanted to do this at the age of 25. I could not wait that long. India’s domestic structure is great. How to make it big without being in the internal section? That was when Square The One came up.

Can you open on Rahul Dravid’s epic sledge against the Australian side in the U-19 World Cup final against India?

India and Australia were scheduled to play in the final. They had defeated Australia in the league stages. The Aussies were having their team meeting in the adjacent room. They could hear each other. They shouted, laughed loudly in order to intimidate the Indian team.

Dravid had a look at Paras Mhambrey, the Indian cricketers. He discussed the tactics and then he states to go berserk. The Indian team laughed, shouted, and made more noise than the Australians. They showed that they will not be intimidated. Dravid showed that he could be ‘Indiranagar ka Gunda’ much before 2020.

Your favorite chapter in the book?

There is a chapter called ‘Guru Mantra’. This highlights how coaches have taken India to the next level. One particular example is Chandrakant Pandit. He was part of the champion Mumbai side in the Ranji Trophy. But he moved to Vidarbha and made them champions in the Ranji Trophy, Who would have thought that Vidarbha could have been the Ranji Champions? Not many. But he did it. They became a formidable side. Players have emerged from that side. How Rahul Dravid has led the Under-19 cricket set-up.

The first thing that Dravid did was all players played only one World Cup. Age-fudging was a big factor. If they played two World Cups, one person’s spot would not come. Vijay Zol, Ravindra Jadeja, and Sarfaraz Khan played a couple of World Cups. The other favorite chapter is the transition from Ranji to IPL. Nowadays, people would want to play the IPL.

What went wrong with the 2012 Under-19 team, now that Unmukt Chand and Smit Patel have decided to move to the USA?

It is tough to pinpoint. As a nation of 1.3 billion, if one does not grab opportunities, he will suffer. The ball by Brett Lee in the IPL shattered his confidence. From all the high of the Under-19 success, that one delivery saw his morale go down. He could not cement his place in the state teams.

Baba Aparajith scored some good runs In the domestic circuit. The mental aspect for cricketers is not talked about much. Imagine one day 100 people ask about you, then it reduces and then no one comes. Unmukt was 18 in 2012. His downfall started when he was 21 years. It was not easy to take. There is no particular reason.

What is the message for cricket fans and sports entrepreneurs?

My message is to enjoy the game. We tend to criticize and hate the players. We have to understand what a cricketer undergoes. I have understood the mental aspect of pressure. As a cricket fan, you have to be calm. As a young cricketer, the limelight and pressure must not get to you. This sport can tell you what you are.

I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. When I started it during the pandemic, what more could go wrong. I thought the situation was so bad. When you are at zero, nothing else can go worst. When one is into start-ups, think about the worst that can happen. If you have that answer, then I can do this. You can tackle any kind of crisis.