Ajay Yadav at Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur on Tuesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
The land of Dhoni has an emerging cricket star, a medium pacer who picked up steam this Ranji season after being stumped on bovine pitch for four years.
Meet 26-year-old Ajay Yadav of Kokar, who wowed Jharkhand State Cricket Association (JSCA) coaches with his sensational lateral attack. So far, he has had a dream haul of 23 wickets for Team Jharkhand in four Ranji league matches and is in form for the ongoing quarter-final against Punjab at Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur.
But state cricket’s newest poster boy is no late bloomer. The youth who had donned the U-22 Jharkhand jersey in 2007 saw his cricketing career suffer a huge setback when his father passed away that same year.
“My father Radhey Yadav was a night watchman at Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav College in Ranchi and supplemented his income by selling milk. When he died, the onus of family responsibilities fell on me as my elder brother had a serious pancreatic disease. Cricket took a backseat as I had to rear and milk cattle,” said the gutsy right-armed pacer.
For over four years, he took charge of the family khatal of around eight cows and buffaloes. He played cricket with local boys using a tennis ball as deuce ones were an unaffordable luxury.
In 2012, he decided to take the plunge again and appeared for Ranji selection trials in October-November.
That’s when JSCA coach Tarak Sinha spotted him and placed him in Team Jharkhand for the Ranji season.
Almost overnight, from milking cows Yadav was spearheading Jharkhand’s pace attack and, well, milking wickets for his team.
“Yeh sab Tarak sir ke kaaran hua. Unhoney mera chayan kiya aur main unke viswas par khara utra (All this happened due to Tarak sir. He selected me and I have proved him right),” Yadav said.
His team mates say that the right-arm medium-pacer is a good mover of the ball and maintains a tidy line and length. “Yadav moves the ball both ways. He is not that quick but tricks batsmen with his movement. He did this against Tripura and Services,” said senior Ranji mate Sunny Gupta.
In December, Yadav had a 10-wicket haul against Tripura at the Ranji league match in Agartala. Last week, he felled 11 in the New Delhi league match against Services.
Jharkhand’s outright win over Services paved the way for the state to book a berth in the Ranji knockout stage after a gap of over a decade.
Talk about his contribution to the state feat and Yadav only says “Cricket is about teamwork and I have a long way to go.”
He also has his feet firmly planted on the ground. “I like tending to my animals. After all, it’s another source of income. Plus, besides meat and eggs, I also drink a lot of milk for strength,” said the non-starry cricket star.
Does Ajay Yadav have the potential to make it to Team India?