Mumbai: When it comes to cricketers and nerds, the line was drawn years ago. Either get a degree, or pursue sports, it’s impossible to juggle both to perfection – it is said. Many a young dreams have bitten the dust of maidans with this approach, and students, who dream of becoming pro players, eventually bog down under the weight of their schoolbags.
Though, there is rarely a crossover, a few do survive even under thriving pressure. One such example happens to be the 18-year-old Divyansh Saxena, who recently earned a call-up in India’s under-19 World Cup squad that will tour to South Africa to defend the hard-earned title.
The road to success has never been an easy one, and so, on similar lines, the proud father of 18-year-old narrates what it was to raise the junior Saxena.
“Definitely, it wasn’t easy,” his father, AK Saxena quips.
“When Divyansh was 4, he used to hit and break the tubelights while playing in our corridor,” the father recalls. “He always loved batting!”
Certainly, the left-handed prodigy is known for his aggressive intent, but, only on the cricket field.
“He has a calm composure, otherwise,” Saxena says. Something, that helped Divyansh excel in academics, as his father believes.
“We used to stay in New Panvel, but when we saw Divyansh juggle sports and studies to perfection, we decided to accommodate his passion for the sport and shifted to Anushakti Nagar in 2008. Then, he was only seven,” Saxena recalls.
The journey from there was anything but a cakewalk. With his father being a renowned scientist, Divyansh joined Atomic Energy Central School (AECS) to meet the academic requirements. Not leaving behind his love for cricket and simultaneously training at Dilip Vengsarkar Cricket Academy at Mahul in Chembur.
With each passing day, challenges for Divyansh kept swelling. The school didn’t support his extracurricular activities and it was time for him and his family to take that “leap of faith”.
“We were worried inside,” the father now admits.
Saxena then thought to himself: “Are we pushing Divyansh too hard? What if he falls in a ‘No Man’s Land’ in pursuit of both cricket and studies?… Should we ask him to sacrifice one of the two and take a safer route?”
However, none of the above convinced a father who wanted to see his boy succeed. Brick by brick, Saxena gathered the courage to pave way for the defining moment to arrive.
At 13, Divyansh moved to Don Bosco High School in Matunga. Each day, he would travel 28 kms from home – all while maintaining his focus on cricket.
A year later, the time arrived for the boy to repay his father's “faith”.
Selected for Mumbai U-14, Divyansh geared up to face his first ball at State level against Gujarat. “There were butterflies in my stomach,” he admits.
“But I knew I couldn’t let it out. I had the confidence that longer I kept my wicket intact, better were the chances of getting the significant score,” the eloquent opener recalls.
And who would have thought, the boy would go on to hammer a double century (212) -- which was the difference between two teams as his team registered a five-wicket victory.
Then followed a century against Baroda and tough 50 against Maharashtra. By the end of tournament, Divyansh went on to amass 435 runs at an impressive average of 109.
The boy who was breaking tubelights just recently, was now breaking records for fun.
“Next two years were exciting,” says Divyansh with an extended smile. “I was enjoying the progress I was making, but at the same time, I had my mother who would keep me grounded.”
Divyansh was adjudged ‘Best Junior cricketer’ of Mumbai by MCA in the same year.
Come Under-16 level, Divyansh was becoming a nightmare for opposition bowlers. He made his mark by scoring 505 runs with an average of 72 in the Vijay Merchant Trophy, including an unbeaten 109* in the final against Punjab.
Divyansh donning the Indian jersey was not just a dream anymore. It was shaping up as reality without his studies getting affected.
“In his board exams, Divyansh used to solve full paper in spite of choices. He scored 86.2% in Standard X and 77.1% in XIIth. He has now joined RA Podar Jr. College, Matunga for further studies,” says Saxena.
“Children who ignore studies to excel in sports should think otherwise. Of course, you may not get excellent marks because of shared focus, but academics sharpen your understanding skills, thought process and helps you learn the skill of multi-tasking,” he adds.
By now, Divyansh had developed the penchant of scoring big on debut and based on good performances in Cooch Behar Trophy, the southpaw earned a call-up for India U-19 Test team against South Africa in February 2019, where he smashed a century (122) on his International debut.
And come January 2020, Divyansh now eyes to translate his pink of form to South Africa with an aim to help his team retain the World title.