Priyam Garg remembers the days when his father used to sell milk from door to door during the day and slip a Rs 10 note to him at night so that he could travel to Meerut for cricket nets. Then, there were days when money was tight and Garg would travel on the roof of buses to pursue his dream.
During those lonely journeys, the budding batsman would wonder whether he would ever make enough money to help his father make both ends meet. On Monday, Garg took the first step by becoming captain of the Indian team for the U-19 World Cup in South Africa next month.
“My father did most of the hard work, he did all the odd jobs that you can imagine… selling milk, driving school vans, loading goods, he ensured that I got a good life. He went through all that just to see me become a cricketer one day. He took me to Meerut and made sure that I got into a decent academy,” Garg told The Indian Express over phone from Bengaluru.
READ | India name 15-member squad for U-19 World Cup with Priyam Garg as captain
That’s not all, he says. His father would accompany him from their home in Parikshitgarh to coach Sanjay Rastogi’s academy in Meerut, 20 km away, or ensure that one of his five sisters did so. Until, he says, they were convinced that he could travel alone.
After honing his skills at the academy, famous for producing swing bowlers Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Garg was picked in Uttar Pradesh’s U-14 side and went on to play for the U-16 and U-19 teams.
Last year, the 19-year-old amassed 867 runs for UP in his maiden Ranji Trophy season, including one double hundred, two centuries and five fifties.
Like most Indians, Garg says, cricket happened him because of Sachin Tendulkar — although there was no TV at home to watch his hero in action. “I would go to a showroom nearby and watch the matches in the middle of a crowd. It was because of Sachin sir that I wanted to play cricket,” he says.
Four-time winner India announce U19 Cricket World Cup squad. Priyam Garg to lead the side. pic.twitter.com/VEIPxe2a2n
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 2, 2019
It’s not been a easy ride, though, especially after he lost his mother when he was just 11. “I was too small to understand what was happening but as I grew up, there was a big hole, which has never been filled. My father and sisters took care of me, my father sacrificed a lot for me,” he says.
Today, his father Naresh works as a driver in the UP health department. “I had to stop our milk business since I had to take Priyam to the ground early morning. So I decided to drive a school van and got into newspaper distribution,” says Naresh.
“Every night, I would take Priyam with me in my van. We would have dinner and I would pick up the papers and drop them at various spots around the city and on the outskirts. By morning, we used to be at the ground. I am not well educated, what do I do know of cricket? But one day, I met Rahul Dravid and he told me not to worry and that my son would go places. I was happy that day,” he says.
Garg’s coach Rastogi says his ward’s “sharp mind” will stand him in good stead. “He wanted to follow in the footsteps of Praveen and Bhuvi. But within a couple of months, I asked him to concentrate on his batting because he looked such a natural stroke-player. Just after a year of joining us, he was selected for the U-14 team,” he says.
As for Garg, the hope is that the journey will lead to the senior Indian team one day. “I am living my father’s dream,” he says.