Meet Atharva Ankolekar, star of India's win in U-19 Asia Cup final

The left-arm spinner’s heroics at the R. Premadasa Stadium on Saturday will certainly add a new dimension to his career.

Atharva Ankolekar's five-wicket haul helped India U-19s clinch the Asia Cup title. Photo: Asian Cricket Council

It was a memorable day for 18-year-old left-arm spinner Atharva Vinod Ankolekar as his five-wicket-haul helped the India U-19s — clinch the Asia Cup title, beating Bangladesh. After scoring a below-par 106 at R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, India managed to seal a five-run win — thanks to Atharva’s spell of 5 for 28.

Coming from a lower middle-class family — his mother, Vaidehi, works as a conductor at the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) bus depot at Marol in the suburbs of Mumbai — Atharva is a second student of commerce at the Rizvi College of Arts, Science and Commerce.

Friends and some members of the Mumbai Cricket Association who have known Atharva for years believe that his mother, Vaidehi, has single-handedly raised him after the demise of his father Vinod — who used to work with BEST — in 2010. “His mother is posted at Marol bus depot, and she has gone out of her way to ensure that the boy lives his dream. Her hard work has paid off,” one of the MCA officials said.

Atharva Ankolekar's mother.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Vaidehi, who was busy at her work on Saturday, kept checking the scores of the final on her phone. “It was a low-scoring affair, so I was nervous whether India will be able to win the game. But I am extremely happy that my son played a role in the team’s win,” Vaidehi told Sportstar.

When she has a bit of spare time, she gives tuition to kids. That’s how she ran the show. “After my husband’s death, I earned a living by giving tuition to students. Later in 2014, I got his job at the BEST,” Vaidehi said. “Life was tough. I had asked him in 2010 whether he wanted to continue with cricket, because it was an expensive sport and he said he wanted to. I received huge support from my colleagues and friends and his coaches. That’s why I could raise the kids,” she said.

Vaidehi also remembers how senior coaches -- Suren Ahire, Prashant Shetty, Diwakar Shetty, Nilesh Patwardhan and Arup Pai -- helped Atharva. “He used to study at the Parle Tilak School and without the help of these people, it would not have been possible to reach so far,” Vaidehi said.

Gift from Sachin

A regular in the local cricketing circuit, Atharva’s defining moment came in 2010, when in a training session in Mumbai, he impressed Sachin Tendulkar, who gifted him a pair of autographed gloves.

When he was a toddler, Atharva’s father, Vinod, gifted him a cricket bat and would tell him stories about cricketing heroes. That’s how the youngster slowly fell in love with cricket. After featuring in the age-group teams of Mumbai, Atharva broke into the India U-19 side.

Atharva trains at the MIG and plays for Star Cricket Club. As he turns 19 next week, his mother hopes that this achievement will help Atharva live his dream. “He needs to improve a lot. This is just the beginning,” she said. “They will be returning home tomorrow and all the family members are really excited,” Vaidehi said, admitting that her neighbours at Govind Nagar in Andheri East, too, are excited. “It’s a big day for us. But he should not rest on his laurels and should work harder for days to come,” the mother said.

So far, receiving a pair of gloves from Tendulkar was the ‘biggest moment’ for the spinner. But his heroics at the R. Premadasa Stadium on Saturday will certainly add a new dimension to his career.