Nehal Wadhera was born a month before Yuvraj Singh made his international debut in Nairobi in the year 2000. His entire early life was seemingly spent watching the stylish left-hander fashion wins for India.
On Thursday, the 21-year-old, representing Ludhiana, smashed 578 against Bathinda U-23 in the semifinals of the Punjab State Inter-district tournament at the GRD Cricket Ground in Ludhiana.
Nehal smashed 42 fours and 37 sixes during his stay at the crease. Ludhiana declared at 880/6 on Day 2 of the four-day match. In reply, Bathinda were 117/4 at stumps.
“I am yet to check whether I made a world record or not, but I am happy with my performance… We are striving hard to win the tournament as my contribution is for the team,” Wadhera told The Indian Express.
His father Kamal Wadhera runs a coaching institute in Ludhiana.
“Yuvi ki yaad dila di (reminded one of Yuvi),” says Charanjit Bhangu, under whose guidance Nehal started playing the game at the Ludhiana District Cricket Association.
“I can’t remember exactly the date but in one of the matches against Ludhiana, Yuvi had smashed around 400 runs for Chandigarh. I was the wicketkeeper in that match for Ludhiana,” recalls an elated Bhangu. “Nehal started coming to me in middle school
and I saw a spark in him since childhood.”
Young Wadhera has modelled his game on his idol Yuvraj; in the upright stance, flowing cover drive, punchy back foot shots and general flamboyance, one can notice striking similarities with the former India middle-order batsman.
“You can see glimpses of Yuvraj in him (Nehal). There is an elegance and his batting is effortless. His hand-eye co-ordination is brilliant; the timing, the placement, everything is just perfect,” says Bhangu.
Nehal is a former member of the Indian U-19 team. During the tour to Sri Lanka in July 2018, he had struck two half-centuries, including 81 on his international U-19 debut. In the 2017-18 Cooch Behar Trophy, he had made 540 runs with six half-centuries.
Earlier this year, Nehal was called by Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals for a trial. However, he was not picked by any team during the auction. But the left-hander feels his stint with the Royals in Nagpur and the time he spent with coach Kumar Sangakkara has helped improve his cricket.
“At the Rajasthan Royals camp, Sangakkara sir encouraged me a lot. He motivated me and told me that my game is good. He spent quality time with me. Based on his inputs, I’m working on my power-hitting and hopefully, I will get a chance to play for the senior Punjab team and IPL in the future,” says Wadhera, who is yet to make his senior debut for Punjab.
Wadhera was part of Punjab’s Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 squad but didn’t get a chance to play. He is the third cricketer from Ludhiana to have played for India at any level. Before him, Yashpal Sharma, who was a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, and Gagandeep Singh have represented the country at the senior level.
Wadhera had starred with both bat and ball against Kapurthala in the earlier round, which resulted in an outright win and Ludhiana’s entry into the semifinals of the competition. His unbeaten 151 had put the team in a commanding position but when the match seemed destined to end in a draw, Wadhera took three wickets in quick succession with his tweakers to fashion a win.