New Chandigarh skipper Manan Vohra reflects on his missed opportunities and future
CHANDIGARH: The straight drive booming past VRV Singh, almost taking the right leg of the city coach observing this net practice from umpire's "safe" spot, signalled the second coming of Manan Vohra, once called second Sehwag.
The bullet flew at 'VRV' while checking out 15 best players of the city at Cricket Stadium, Sector 16, during a preparation camp for Vijay Hazare Trophy. A quick hop-skip saved him. Vohra, 26, chosen to lead Chandigarh after parting ways with Punjab, appears to have preserved a lot of ammunition. Beware, bowlers.
Asked why he had been shooting wide of target before, Vohra said: "What can I say about the last two most difficult years. I was neither playing regular cricket nor able to convert 20s and 30s (into big scores). Destiny plays a part in life."
King of setbacks
Not long ago, he was next big thing in Indian cricket, as rated by stalwarts Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh after looking at his stroke play in Indian Premier League (IPL). For the past two years, the emergence of Shubman Gill and Anmolpreet Singh has denied him a regular slot in Punjab, which even dropped him in the last Ranji season. This second setback forced him to seek new opportunities.
After Chandigarh received affiliation from the cricket board, he announced that in the new season, he will lead the new team. His career has followed a different script from someone who was once a prodigy. Setbacks are not new to him. Vohra was supposed to open the innings with Unmukt Chand in the 2012 Under-19 World Cup in Australia, which India won eventually, but a day before the departure, a fractured right thumb ruled him out of the tournament. His replacement, Hanuma Vihari, is now in the Test team.
Every player's fear
He says it wasn't expectations that unsettled him. "I was even compared to Virender Sehwag. I opened with him in the IPL for Kings XI and outscored him in a couple of matches. But I failed to grab all my chances. Every player has this fear of failure, even the greats I shared the dressing rooms with in the IPL and Punjab Ranji squad," he added.
The people who know Vohra say he won't go down without a fight. After the thumb injury, he made the cut for India A in one year. "I believe in god," he says. "I don't know what the future holds but I know who holds the future. It's my job to score big runs and pull Chandigarh into the elite group."
Reflecting on his career, the swashbuckling opener said: "I will cherish the sweet memories of playing for Punjab. Yuvi Paaji and Bhajju Paaji were a big help and motivation throughout the journey." But now he is also captain of a new team. "Yes, it is not going to be easy," he said, "But the team has jelled up nicely under V R V Paaji and I am excited to take the field for Chandigarh."
He has the added responsibility of taking along young sensation Arjun Azad, seasoned Uday Kaul and Bipul Sharma, and a bowling department that got bolstered with the inclusion of Barinder Sran. Chandigarh will open their campaign against Uttarakhand on September 25 in Dehradun.
The match will be special for Vohra. When he walks down for the toss, he will be reunited with his old friend Unmukt Chand, now captain of Uttrakhand since switching from Delhi. Their stories are similar-both once hailed as the Indian cricket's future, who lost their way in the past.
Vohra will have a full season in his quest for redemption. He will lead a new team on the road, moving from one city to another. It will be chaotic but what he has always dreamt of-dust, runs, centuries, victories.