Three years ago, Vidarbha's teenage pacer Aditya Thakare, then in Class X, had almost given up on his cricket and decided to focus solely on academics. Thankfully, he didn't, after his coaches at Akola Cricket Club (ACC) convinced him to change his decision and stick to cricket. Today, Thakare will travel to New Zealand to join the Prithvi Shaw-led Indian colts in the ongoing U-19 World Cup as cover for injured speedster Ishan Porel.
His father, Shailesh recalled the time his son almost quit the game. "Aditya began playing cricket in Class VIII, at the age of 14, with ACC. However, in Class X, he told me that he wanted to quit because he was finding it very difficult to manage both cricket and his studies. We discussed this with his ACC coach Bharat Dikkar and he advised us against it. The other coaches at ACC also felt that Aditya should continue as he had the potential to make it big in the game. Aditya was initially hesitant, but later agreed. He went on to secure 90 per cent in the SSC examination. With his World Cup opportunity, we now realise what a big mistake we would have made had he given up on the game then," Thakare Sr told mid-day over the phone from Akola yesterday.
Aditya, who claimed two wickets in his debut Ranji Trophy match - Vidarbha's victorious final clash with Delhi recently - once, was not even in the probables of the Vidarbha U-16 team. There is an interesting story here too. "Aditya was 15, when he excelled with the ball for ACC in our all-India T20 tournament, against Madhya Pradesh XI, who had a few first-class players in their ranks. "Vidarbha's U-16 team had already been announced by then but I requested Adwait Manohar (then Vidarbha Cricket Association's Cricket Development Committee chief) and the selectors to simply watch this boy bowl. They agreed, and were impressed with Aditya.
"He did not just make the U-16 squad but also went on to finish as the highest wicket-taker for Vidarbha," explained Dikkar, who is also VCA's convenor for Akola district.