‘We will try to give Kalra a chance in Ranji Trophy’

Former India cricketer Madan Lal, who heads the Cricket Advisory Committee of the DDCA, had backed U-19 star Manjot Kalra when the youngster came under pressure to prove his age last September.

Manjot Kalra scored 252 runs in five innings at an average of 84 in the U-19 World Cup.   -  ICC

Ever since the ICC U-19 World Cup gained prominence, there has been zero margin for error on the ‘age’ front. Yet, Delhi boy Manjot Kalra — who smashed an unbeaten 101 off 102 balls to help the colts clinch the trophy at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Saturday — fell prey to a controversy last September.

At a stage when the southpaw was almost certain to play the U-19 World Cup, parents of a few other junior cricketers raised an alarm to verify his age. Later, Kalra’s school certificates, passport and pan card copies proved his innocence.

Back then, former India cricketer Madan Lal — who also heads the Cricket Advisory Committee of the Delhi And District Cricket Association (DDCA) — backed Kalra to the hilt. “We couldn’t have spoilt a career based on rumours. We had seen most of the players before and we had to back him because he had cleared all the processes laid down by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI),” Lal told Sportstar, after the U-19 team’s eight-wicket World Cup triumph on Saturday.

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“Now the real game starts for him. But it also depends on individuals on what they want to do. All they should bother about now is the performance and nothing else. A cricketer, at this stage, should think about the team as the step from U-19 to senior team is a big one. You will need to be one of the best,” added Lal, who is of the opinion that every association should back its players.

‘We will look after him’

Being a World Cup winner (in 1983), Lal clearly knows the formula that completes a cricketer. “The associations should be careful in handling the young cricketers. They should be given fair chances and not drop them abruptly after one match. The BCCI has invested [in] them, and they are also talented. The rest depends on the association to keep giving them chances. DDCA doesn’t have immediate plans for Kalra, but we will definitely look after him. We will try to give him a chance in Ranji Trophy; only chances can produce cricketers and if the player starts performing, you know you have somebody at least for the next few years,” he said.

Amid other teams, Kalra dominated the Aussies in the tournament. Even in the group stage clash, the left-hander smashed 86 off 99 balls, including a 180-run opening stand with skipper Prithvi Shaw — in India’s favour.