A few years ago, Parth Bhut was disappointed to have not made it to the Saurashtra age-group cricket team. The young spinner from Junagadh appeared for trials, but could not make the cut.
While he was deliberating what to do next, his coach and former cricketer Gautam Babaria had a piece of advice. “ Ek saal aayega, jab kuch bhi palat sakta hai… (there will be a year when anything can change),” Babaria told Bhut, while encouraging him to just focus on his game and cut out the noise.
And as luck would have it, in the 2018-19 season, he featured in the Saurashtra U-23 team and made his debut against Punjab and following a series of consistent performances, he eventually broke into the senior men’s team and made his debut against Uttar Pradesh in a Ranji Trophy group league fixture in 2019.
However, his biggest moment of glory came on Tuesday, when he came in at No. 9 and scored a gritty unbeaten 111 to save Saurashtra the blushes on the first day of its Ranji Trophy quarterfinal clash against Punjab.
Coming in to bat at a time when Saurashtra was struggling at 147 for 7, Bhut forged crucial partnerships with Chetan Sakariya and Yuvrajsinh Dodiya at the fag end to guide his team to 303.
While it was a challenge to face an in-form Mayank Markande and seamer Baltej Singh, a confident Bhut made it look so easy. “It was a difficult situation as we had lost quite a few wickets. I just thought of forging a partnership and put up a competitive total. First, I built on with Chetan, then came the stand with Yuvraj,” Bhut told Sportstar after the day’s play.
“There was nothing much happening on the wicket, so we just wanted to stay around and score runs and take the innings forward. The idea was to back my abilities and score runs. I wanted to stay positive and not panic,” the 25-year-old said.
Replacing Ravindra Jadeja, who is on national duty, Bhut stamped his class as he played fearless cricket, emulating his ‘idol’ Jadeja. Though he had to sit out for Saurashtra’s last game against Tamil Nadu and make way for Jadeja, he learned a lot from the India international. “I admire him, and finally got to meet him for the first time during the game against Tamil Nadu and I ensured that I picked his brains. He advised me on how to play to my strengths and suggested a few things, which were on my mind for this game,” Bhut said.
It was not easy for him to pursue cricket. While his father is a property broker in Junagadh, Bhut was the first in the family to take up cricket as a career. “We may not be financially very well off, but my father and the entire family have always supported me. I have two elder sisters, and me being the youngest, they have always encouraged me to chase my dreams…”
And, it is with his determination and grit that he first drew attention with his consistent performances at the Saurashtra Premier League. In this edition of the Ranji Trophy, he claimed four wickets in the second innings and also chipped in with the bat as Saurashtra created history by defeating Mumbai in its backyard. “I have always wanted to contribute to all the departments and that has always been my aim,” Bhut said.
Against Punjab, Bhut got lucky when Markande dropped a sitter at 93. And making most of the reprieve, he brought up his maiden first-class century in style.
“ Mujhe laga tha, woh catch ho jayga (I thought he would take that catch). I was blaming myself for saying such a reckless shot at that juncture, but then I got lucky, kismat achha tha,” he said.
While he is elated to have come to the team’s rescue when it mattered the most, Bhut now wants to make it count with the ball. With four days remaining, he is confident that Saurashtra, playing with three spinners, will be able to put up a strong fight against Punjab. Bhut is keeping his fingers crossed.
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