Gaurav Dhiman: Trying to revive genius after two teenage World Cups


PART 5: Gaurav Dhiman, 35, can be forgiven if he thinks life has been like a half-hearted genie trying to materialize but giving up. When he was a teenager, it seemed that he was going to break out to fulfill all his wishes: two Under-19 World Cups in 2004 and 2006, second-best running back in the latter as an attacking starter, happy memories of playing with rohit sharmaCheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadejawhipping Kemar Roach through limits that still linger in his mind, IPL picks, before the genius suddenly went limp and crumpled inside.

An injury spun out of control due to lack of proper guidance and so did his mind. The rift created by personal anguish was filled by liquid spirits before the genie began to move again to save his life. A chance meeting of his father on a subway train with a young woman, who eventually became Gaurav’s wife, changed his life. He kicked the bottle, the desire to play cricket resurfaced, surgery was finally performed, an intense physical regimen started, and today he entered his name into the IPL auction fray, hoping for a small miracle.

He has been playing in the top division in Karnataka, still carrying the ball and bowling at a medium pace, coaching boys, seeking coaching credentials, but the flame burns brightly for one last chance at redemption on the field of play. The hope is that some talent scout has seen him and has proposed his name. He happened to Pravin Tambe, right? 35 he is not that old. I am fitter than ever and I am confident in my talent,” says Dhiman.

It seems best to start with some sonic memory. The sound of a ball in a square broke the rhythm of young Kemar Roach at the 2006 Under-19 World Cup. “When I finished playing that shot, when the flow of my bat stopped, the ball had crashed into the boundary. That sound of the ball on the bat I can still hear it.”

Another whispered voice note leaks out. “I remember telling Pujara to let me hit Roach, I like the pace of him and the rebound of him,” laughs Dhiman. Pujara made 97, Dhiman broke a 56-ball 74 in a 110-run opening partnership.

He talks about the happy times he spent with Rohit Sharma and later with people like Luke Ronchi and company. in the IPL years. He was selected for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, but his body began to betray him in both spells.

A torn ligament in his left leg at the RCB put him out of business. Nobody told you how to recover? “Bharat Chipli had the same injury, but he was back playing soon. I thought my case would be the same. No one told me otherwise.” He started to get worse. The next year, when he moved to the Mumbai Indians, he also lost his other leg. “My knee swelled up and once again I was naive, trying to play through pain.”

Some happy moments were interspersed even in this phase. “Sachin Tendulkar I was on IM then and I think he was one of the reasons I was on that team. He told me every day during my injury, ‘don’t worry, you’ll be back. Fix that thing. You are a good hitter. Every day he asked me, ‘how are you?’ He didn’t have to do it, but he did it.”

For a moment, before his leg went weak, he thought he might open with Sanath Jayasuriya. “Tendulkar had an injury and I was forced to open Jayasuriya in the nets before the matches started. He was a quiet and shy man, but to see him throw the ball and, above all, to see Tendulkar bat up close was special”.

But the injury got worse and he returned home. He thought the break would do the trick. it didn’t. The light had really gone out. He couldn’t bowl, he was trying to get by with his hand-eye coordination and it wasn’t enough for him to secure a spot on the Karnataka Ranji team.

“I couldn’t even train because my legs were gone. It was here that I picked up bad habits. I also learned who my friends were. Almost all disappeared. I wasn’t an active cricketer now, you see… What I’ve learned in my life at this young age is the good in the big picture I guess. It’s sad, but that’s how many people there are.”

It’s also why he still texts Pujara or some other former teammate, he says, in his downtime. “I know how valuable he can be even to great players in times of trouble.”

He started his toxic delirium with alcohol. “He couldn’t even train and he had a lot of time to kill. That’s when she started: one drink now, two drinks later, and so on. Lucky for me, I turned around before it destroyed me. For that I have to thank my wife. I made a pact with my dad (he had played hockey at nationals) that I would marry any girl I find. Imagine, he finds her on a train! An informal chat became something special for the son.

“She recharged me. She took the pressure off me that she had put on me. She made me realize what she was doing to me. All this in her wonderfully casual way. ‘Do what you want. If you want to play cricket, go for it. If you want to do something else, do it. Just be happy.'”

Dhiman’s love for the game resurfaced and the change began with his wife and sports-mad father (“He’s my biggest supporter and probably the only person who thinks I can still go back to cricket!”). He had surgery. The exercise regimen took over. The bottle was kicked.

“The other day we were in Goa and even my wife told me, ‘hey, you can have a drink if you want’, but I told her no. It is a kind of discipline that I imposed on myself for my dream of cricket. I have a little boy, how beautiful it would be if I showed that I made a successful comeback. That I didn’t quit.”

Dhiman says that he has realized the power of the mind and how it can actively shape one’s life. The genie seems to be stirring again.

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