Often, a spark is enough to start a revolution. Jalna may still be miles away from becoming a cricketing hub as far as facilities are concerned, but Vijay Zol’s success with the India U-19 team is serving as a catalyst in this district.
Leading from the front, Zol slammed a century in the recently-concluded Asia Cup final against Pakistan at Sharjah. And although Jalna is a hub for commercial activities in the Marathwada region, facilities for cricket were almost negligible.
India U-19 captain Vijay Zol has impressed with the bat. Pic/Suresh KK
That was before Zol began capturing everyone’s attention. “Jalna is a small place. There are no grounds (for cricket), no turf wickets. So, it was tough if you had to pursue cricket seriously.
There is only one academy there, but the facilities were minimal. At times, we would be short of leather balls. We would hardly get nets once or twice in a month.
We would practice with tennis balls,” Zol told MiD DAY on the eve of Maharashtra’s quarter-final clash against Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium. Zol, who had a groin injury, has been declared fit to play today.
His consistency is now acting as fodder for development of cricket in his hometown. “The facilities are increasing now. People are excited to pursue cricket seriously,” said Zol, who is in his last season as an U-19 player.
Zol said the hard times only made him tougher. “I took it as a blessing in disguise. I realised the importance of an opportunity. So, when it arrived, I wanted to grab it with both hands.
It does not matter from where you come. It is all about the hard work and how badly you want to get there,” said Zol, whose father, a prominent lawyer in Jalna, set up an artificial wicket in his backyard a few years ago.
The craze for cricket there would increase further if Zol’s team is successful in defending the U-19 World Cup title next month in Abu Dhabi.
“The team is gelling really well.
There haven’t been too many changes in the side, so the there is good bonding between players. I am happy to win the Asia Cup. There was some hard cricket played in the tourney.
I know my role in the team, so that helps. We are hoping to continue our form in the World Cup as well. That will be a high point for us,” concluded Zol.