I didn't expect a bid in the IPL auction: Manjot Kalra

India win U19 Cricket World Cup Final against Australia - Man of the Match Manjot Kalra
CREDIT: ICC, International Cricket Council

It has been almost two weeks since Manjot Kalra played the match-winning knock of 101* to lead to India lifting the U19 World Cup for the fourth time in the history, but he is still a busy guy.He is always accompanied by 3-4 known people, who take care of him. Even when it comes to practice sessions in North of Delhi, he is accompanied by at least two people.

Manjot has become a star in India, especially locally, where people still visit his house to meet and click a selfie with him, “ My area’s people still visit my house. They seem to be happier than I. Locality’s children too visit my house; it’s quite a good feeling,” says Manjot who has a meeting scheduled with the Principle of the college, where he has been for an interview and morning practice session.

After spending a few days at his uncle’s home, Manjot finally got an official entry into his own home in Adarsh Nagar – the area where he lives in Delhi, fans thronged into his home to share the moment. He slept at his uncle’s home for a few days, so that he could get a sound sleep.

Manjot was not deemed to be the flag bearer for the Indian team going into the tournament. It was the pair of Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill who were expected to lead team India's charge and they did it, but not on the final day.  

While chasing a small target of 217 runs, India lost the wicket of Shaw on a score of 71. Gill too was flummoxed by a spinning delivery from Param Uppal, which castled his stumps.

India win U19 Cricket World Cup Final against Australia

India win U19 Cricket World Cup Final against Australia
©CREDIT: ICC, International Cricket Council

Manjot weaved considerable partnerships with the captain and the vice-captain but the victory was still 86 runs away.

“There was a clear message from Rahul Dravid (Head Coach), whoever gets set on the crease, just take the responsibility and finish off the game. Take the game till the end, and just finish it. I was playing according to the ball. The two wickets that fell put the responsibility on me. If they (bowlers) were offering me something, I was taking it with both the hands,” Manjot says when asked about the message while he came to bat.

Short targets are sometimes tricky, especially when a team loses wickets in the middle but Manjot was firm to finish off the game, which he did by scoring a century, thus becoming  the second Indian batsman after Unmukt Chand to score a century in the final of the U19 World Cup. 

Ironically, the Man of the Final didn't get a chance to talk to his family on the day. In the afternoon on February 3, media persons thronged into the streets of Adarsh Nagar to cover the reaction of Manjot’s family.

A big screen put outside his house, where the all the neighbours saw Manjot creating history in Mount Maunganui.

The junior boys flew to New Zealand two weeks before the start of the tournament. At first, they accompanied their seniors on the same fight. The senior team then boarded the flight onto South Africa.

One of the major reasons behind the U19 boys going to New Zealand early was to assimilate to the conditions there. They also played a couple of practice matches against local teams, to get used to the conditions. It was the bounce, and not the swing that plays a major factor in New Zealand, thinks Manjot, “The conditions in India and New Zealand are quite different. There is a different bounce in New Zealand. Swing is not a big factor there, but the bounce is.

The most common and a major problem for the junior cricketers is to maintain a balance between studies and the sport. Someone like Vijay Zol, the captain of India U19 in 2014 World Cup, left his studies at a young age to solely focus on the game.

He played two World Cups (2012 and 2014) but presently, is struggling to fix his place in the playing XI of his state team, Maharashtra.

On the other hand, someone like Unmkut Chand – captain of India U19 in 2012 World Cup – balanced the game and studies so well that he even went onto write a book on his own life, 15 months after he led his side to a title victory over Australia in Townsville in U19 World Cup 2012.

Manjot too found it difficult to make a balance between the two but somehow, managed to pass high school, My father used to wait for the time when I will come from school so as he could take me to (cricket) academy. In fact, I used to have my Lunch on the way. We just used to rush to the academy.

He has now passed his secondary school studies and is all set to take admission in a college in the upcoming session. Having played for India U19 team, he will easily get admission in any of the top colleges in Delhi - via sports quota - affiliated to Delhi University.

The Boys in Blue tasted success in each and every game they played but they had a tough time too; off the field. India were all set to face Bangladesh in the quarterfinal of the World Cup on January 26, just a day ahead when the two-day IPL auction ceremony was to take place.

The IPL auction was a distraction which Dravid himself accepted.

Seven players, including Manjot, ended up with a IPL franchise deal and this could have made real impact on any player, who did not get an IPL contract.

Manjot was unfazed by what happened in the auction, simple, because he wasn't expecting any bid from any of the eight franchises, “There were no expectations. It did watch a bit of auction ceremony but I wasn’t expecting a bid. There was team meeting going on when someone from my family messaged me that Delhi Daredevils have bought me. We were told not to watch it as it was a distraction for us.  There was a simple message for us – we are in New Zealand for the World Cup.

Manjot was bought by Delhi Daredevils at his base price of Rs 20 Lakh. Had the IPL auction been conducted after the final of U19 World Cup, he could have gone at a much higher price.

Out of the India U19 contingent, Kamlesh Nagarkoti was the one who topped in the auction. He was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders for an amount of Rs.3.2 Crores. Shivam Mavi too hit jackpot and sealed a deal worth Rs 3 Crores with the same franchise.

Prithvi Shaw (Rs 1.2 Crores –Delhi Daredevils), Shubman Gill (Rs 1.8 Crores Kolkata Knight Riders), Abhishek Sharma (Rs 55 Lakhs – Delhi Daredevils) and Anukul Roy (Rs 20 Lakhs – Mumbai Indians) were other players who were bought by the franchises on the auction day.

Now that everyone knows Manjot, how does he feel about being a star in India?

“Bhaiya jab mein gaya tha, to mere sirf mere chacha hi drop karne gaye the airport par or jab mein aya, to itne log lene aye the mereko. Itni expectations nahi thi - mereko bahut acha laga jis tarah se welcome kiya or mereko treat kiya (When I departed from my home to fly to New Zealand for the World Cup, it was only my uncle who accompanied me to the airport and when I came back, there were a lot of people who were there to receive me. I didn’t expect that. It is such a good feeling).

The journey has now begun for Manjot. As many of the U19 cricketers, who have done well at the junior level, have not been able to emulate their success in the senior cricket.

From Unmukt to Zol to Harmeet Singh, they all showed promise at the junior level but haven’t been able to emulate their success in senior cricket.

In past 10 years, barring Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, no other players from India U19 ranks has been able to establish their place in the Indian team.

Players like Manish Pandey, Mandeep Singh, KL Rahul have made it to the national side but are still on course of settling themselves in the international circuit. On the other hand, few players like Saurabh Tiwary, Sandeep Sharma didn't have a long stay in the national side and made an exit from the Indian team at a much faster pace.

From the current players, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti seem to be a future prospect to be there in the national team but there is still many miles for them to cover before donning the national jersey.

Manjot Kalra

Manjot Kalra U19 Cricket World Cup man of the match
©CREDIT: ICC, International Cricket Council