Born to a cricket coach father and an Olympic gold medallist hockey playing grandfather, sports was never too far away for India’s latest U19 World Cup sensation Raj Angad Bawa. The youngster recalls being associated with the gentleman’s game right from the time he progressed from crawling to walking.
“Right from the time I began learning how to walk, there was always a cricket centric environment around me. I used to accompany my dad when he used to go to the academy or to the matches, and that’s how my interest in cricket naturally evolved,” recalls a starry eyed Raj Bawa in an exclusive interview with Punjab Kings.
As the years passed, Raj Bawa continued to play cricket with his peers, enjoying it as a much cherished hobby. That hobby though began to take shape as a profession after he visited one of India’s most picturesque stadiums- the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium in his early teens.
“The Dharamshala Stadium is the first major stadium that I visited and played in. The ground was so lush, I used to enjoy just diving around and practicing with my seniors and the ground staff,” remembers the Punjab Kings all-rounder.
“Prior to visiting Dharamshala, I used to just play for leisure, sometimes I’d play, sometimes not if I wasn’t in the mood, but that visit to a stadium really made me become serious towards my sport. That’s when I told my dad I want to become a cricketer,” he added.
The interest was always there, now Raj Bawa had also found an unadulterated passion for the game. What was missing was one path-breaking performance to make the world take notice, and that also arrived soon enough for the southpaw.
A 28-ball ton
Back in 2016, Raj Bawa was studying at Amity University in Gurgaon, when he was asked to participate by his school in the Manav Rachna Cup- an annual U-14 level school competition. Prior to the start of the tournament, Raj had eyes on the man on the tournament prize but saw that vision drooping after two sub-par performances to begin the competition.
“The first two games I was out cheaply, collectively I’d scored around 30 runs so I was thinking I’m definitely not going to be a contender now for the man of the tournament,” remembers Raj Bawa. The third match was against the hosts team Manav Rachna - the chief rivals of his own school Amity University.
“After two bad games, I was nervous I’d have another low score, but the very first ball against Manav Rachna I flicked it over the infield for a six,” says Raj while going on to add “and then it was raining sixes the whole game for me.”
“I opened the batting in that game and I scored a century off just 28 balls, and by the time I got out in the 12th over, I had amassed around 140 runs in 40 deliveries, setting up a comfortable win for my team against one of the strongest competitors Manav Rachna,” explains Raj Bawa.
“After that century, I managed to find my form as I scored two fifties in the next two matches, and I clinched that man of the series accolade,” recalls an incandescent Raj Bawa.
A few years and an ICC U19 World Cup Triumph after, Raj Bawa still recounts that 28-ball century as one of the most memorable moments of his brief cricket career. A free-flowing, definitive knock that reaffirmed his cricketing aspirations.