Scoring a century in your debut first-class innings could be the dream of any young player and Vijay Zol, who achieved the remarkable feat on Friday, wants to savour this knock for the rest of his life. Though he was a bit nervous before going in to bat, Zol knew what was required of him and went about his business accordingly.
"Nerves were very much there. But I tried to keep my composure early on and the more time I spent in the middle, the more confident I became," Zol told Cricketnext after stroking 110 against a New Zealand A featuring Test bowlers Mark Gillespie and Doug Bracewell in Visakhapatnam. "The knock that I played today was very special to me and will always remain very close to my heart. Scoring a hundred on debut is a big thing and I am delighted that I was able to achieve such a feat."
Zol is just 18 but he has already seen the tough phase in life as Jalna, a small town in Maharashtra, doesn't have a cricket stadium and it took special efforts from him and his father, Hari, to get him the basic infrastructure so that he could pursue his career.
"It's been tough for me, but since I have crossed that hurdle, now I want to focus solely on improving my game. Although I am happy after today's knock, I know I will need to perform consistently," said Zol, who came into prominence when he smashed a mammoth 451* for Maharashtra against Assam in an Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy group game in December 2011.
That marathon knock transformed his young career as he was later picked for India's ICC U-19 World Cup side that won the competition in Townsville, Australia in 2012. He kept on scoring runs after that, with 225 runs coming in six games for Maharashtra in the 2013 Vijay Hazare Trophy, which was followed by a century (109 off 63 balls) in a Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 game against Mumbai in March this year.
With runs under his belt, he was given the reigns of the U-19 side for a tri-series in Australia in July this year and vindicated the selectors' faith by leading the team admirably. In five matches, Zol scored 293 runs at 73.25, helping India winning the competition without losing a single match. He got just three days to unwind himself before boarding the flight to Sri Lanka where he had to lead the Indian side in a youth series. Just like the previous tour, runs continued to flow in Sri Lanka as well, getting two centuries in as many innings at 150.50 in Tests and two half-centuries at 55.33 in three limited-overs games.
He feels getting runs consistently, that too in different conditions, boosted his confidence before this important New Zealand A series. "Both the series [Australia and Sri Lanka] boosted my confidence immensely. Leading India in itself was a big achievement but I also had to lead by example as many players were part of the side for the first time and I am happy that I was able to do that," said Zol, who has six centuries this year in all formats.
He also understands the importance of these scores as he is going to cross the U-19 level in three months and runs here will only give him more confidence before the domestic season begins. "There is no right or wrong time for scoring runs. You should score as many as you can when you're in a good nick. I never dreamt of playing for the senior team and facing a quality opposition such as this New Zealand side, which has two Test bowlers - Gillespie and Bracewell - in their ranks. It needed a bit of character and I am satisfied that I contributed in the team's total," said Zol.
Talking more about the drawn game in Visakhapatnam, Zol said things could have been better if the first day's play was not washed out and if they held on to a few chances in the New Zealand innings. "We could have been in a better position had we not dropped a few crucial chances. We could have easily restricted them to a low score."
The young left-handed batsman also knows the fact that only scoring runs consistently will take him the distance and he is ready to do the hard yards in the days to come. "I already know nothing comes easy in life. You need to earn your chances. I want to concentrate on one innings at a time."
India A's second game, a four-day affair, is at the same venue from September 2.