From: Parikshitgarh, Meerut
Mentor: Sanjay Rastogi
Beginning: Priyam Garg doesn’t remember when he watched Sachin Tendulkar bat for the first time. But he distinctly remembers that it was Tendulkar who made him fall in love with cricket.
Back then, there was no television at his home and young Priyam would skip his studies and rush to a nearby shop to watch Tendulkar play. That became a routine for the youngster.
While Priyam dreamt of donning the India colours someday, his father, Naresh was not too confident. Rather, he wanted his youngest son to settle down and focus on studies. It was not easy for Naresh to make ends meet. He would sell milk, deliver newspapers and ferry children to school in a mini-van to run the family, and in such a scenario, cricket was never a priority.
But over the years, Naresh realised that his son wasn’t keen on studies, it was the 22-yards that attracted him more. “We did not have enough money to buy him kits, so initially I bought him a bat worth ₹500 or so. Back then, it was a big deal,” Naresh, who is now a driver with the Uttar Pradesh health department, says.
Priyam lost his mother when he was 11 and since then, his father has ensured that there’s no problem. “It has been tough to make ends meet, but I have ensured that he gets whatever is required for his game. I am always there for him,” he says.
As days went by, Naresh took Priyam to Meerut to train under Sanjay Rastogi — a popular coach in the city, who has produced international cricketers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Praveen Kumar. “I will be forever grateful to him (Rastogi) for helping Priyam. He always backed him and Priyam has come so far because of him,” Naresh says. The academy was 20 kms away from his home in Parikshitgarh, and Naresh would accompany Priyam everyday or would send one of his five sisters along with him.
“He was a bright young talent, who was always willing to learn. He would spend hours at the nets,” Rastogi says. “His father played a key role in his development and it’s because of his sacrifices that the boy has done so much. The best thing about him is that he is always ready for challenges,” Rastogi adds. After honing his skills at the academy, Priyam was picked for Uttar Pradesh’s U-14 side and went on to play for the U-16 and U-19 sides. His consistent performances at the junior level helped him break into the India U-19 side. In 2017, India A coach Rahul Dravid watched him score a century at an invitational tournament organised by the Karnataka State Cricket Association in Alur, and he was added to the India U-19 team soon. “I have learnt a lot from Rahul sir and Paras (Mhambrey) sir. Rahul sir taught me a lot of things on how to adapt to the conditions and play according to the situation. That has been a great learning,” Priyam tells Sportstar .
He would have been a part of the side for the World Cup in 2018, but missed out because of an injury. However, Priyam made the most of the lost opportunity as he slammed an unbeaten century in his Ranji Trophy debut against Goa that year.
In his maiden first-class season, he finished with 814 runs in 10 outings, and soon booked berths in the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy squads.
However, the biggest moment in his career came as he was chosen as the India captain for this year’s U-19 World Cup in South Africa. Even though he did not have a memorable outing with the willow, India reached the final of the tournament, before bowing out to Bangladesh.
That final not only taught Priyam a lesson but also helped him grow as a cricketer. “My target is to break into the senior team now. I am working hard and hopefully, I will be able to fulfil my dreams,” he says.
Just before the U-19 World Cup, Priyam was roped in by Sunrisers Hyderabad for a whopping ₹1.9 crore in the IPL auction. While the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the tournament, Priyam is hoping to make it count as and when the tournament begins. “I can read the game pretty fast and that has been my strength and I want to develop that skill. I am looking forward to more opportunities,” Priyam says.
For the last few months, he was stuck at home and trained indoors, but it’s been a few weeks since he moved to Meerut to resume individual training. “During the lockdown, I could only do basic training and now that things are easing out, I am trying to get back in shape,” Priyam says. It has been a fairy tale for the young gun. And now, breaking into the senior team is his ultimate goal!
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