A father's pride soaring on Avesh's eventful ride

Avesh Khan (right) has overcome adversity to make it big in cricket. DH PHOTO

It's been two years since right-arm pacer Avesh Khan received the biggest compliment of his career. "The way Avesh rushed onto the batsmen on this pitch, something world-class bowlers from both sides couldn't do, was impressive," Virat Kohli, leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore had said. 

Those words from one of the world's best players were music to Avesh's father - Ashiq Khan. Ashiq had witnessed his 10-year-old son pick up a plastic ball and go onto the streets of Indore to play cricket all day. Cricket occupied a special place in the family. From listening to commentary whenever the men-in-blue took to field to watching the action live on television, the game brought the family together. 

But when Avesh expressed his interest to pursue cricket, seeing him as a world-class cricketer was the last thing on Ashiq's mind. "Be 'serious' in whatever you do," was Ashiq's advice to his son. For someone who tried to make ends meet from his small pan shop, Ashiq was oblivious to his son's talent. 

As Avesh honed his skills under coach Amardeep Pathania, Ashiq wished he had some time to see his son bowl. "I only hoped he was focused on his game. I couldn't leave the shop and go see him bowl in the academy," recollects Ashiq. His wish eventually came true when Avesh decided to go for the selection trials of former India international Amay Khurasiya's academy.   

The trials, which witnessed over 1000 players, was the first sign of good things to come, recollects Ashiq. "The trials had three rounds and it only took four balls for Avesh to get picked for the final round. I heard from coaches that Khurasiya was very impressed. When I got the news that he was one step away from getting selected, I took my friends to watch him bowl for the first time. It wasn't a competitive game but for a father, it was a proud moment," says Ashiq. 

Avesh's selection was inevitable but if he thought he would experience a smooth ride from there on, he was wrong. His father's pan shop had to be brought down due to a road-widening initiative from the local government. After many rounds of struggle, Ashiq managed to get a low-profile private job. The family looked to the youngster and Avesh, performing consistently for the Madhya Pradesh State teams in all age-groups, used his match allowances to jointly run the family.

Today, Avesh understands the value of money, feels his father. "Right from a young age, I had decided that I won't let my son have anything easily. When he fared poorly in his ninth standard final exams, I had strictly told him not to play cricket until he gets his focus back on studies. There are other instances. He demanded a cycle from me to go to the academy. I could have done my best to buy him one, but I wanted him to come up the hard way and he was forced to walk to his coaching centre everyday. All I could afford was a cricket kit," says Ashiq, who ran a family of four. 

Avesh didn't let his father's efforts go down the drain. After making his Ranji Trophy debut at the age of 18, he soon travelled to Bangladesh for the U-19 World Cup in 2016. The lanky fast bowler made his Indian Premier League debut for Bangalore in 2017.

Last year was an eventful one for the 23-year-old. Avesh was among the three pacers chosen as India's net bowlers for the 50-over World Cup in England. "It was a great experience. We bowled to all Indian players for long hours," said Avesh of his eight-day stint. Turning out for India Red later in the year, Avesh's impressive show was key in India Red's triumph. 

"Now that he has shown great promise, we want to him to grow higher. "Hamari umeede bhad gayi hai" (Our expectations have increased)," says Ashiq. With 82 wickets from 22 first-class matches, Avesh has made a decent start. The pinnacle of his journey is the Indian national team and he will know only hard work and consistency will take him there.

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