Victory has a very specific sensation. Go into the dressing room of any team at any level after a triumph and it is a tangible presence. There are periodic woos and clapping as players let out their adrenaline. The atmosphere in the Indian U-19 team dressing room after having handed a crushing 201 run defeat to South Africa in the finals of the four nation quadrangular was no different. Sarfaraz Khan,the hero of the win with an unbeaten 67 in Indias total of 267 and then two crucial wickets up front as South Africa was bowled out for 66,was handing out high fives like they were pieces of toffee.
With the coaches leaving for the airport,directly after the match,the players were left to their own. Unchaperoned,celebrations would continue late into the evening at the team hotel. But Sarfaraz had another reason to get back to the hotel to gloat. Aaj wapas jaane me maza ayega. Woh apni room se nahi niklenge. Hamne tod diya unhe, Indeed if the victory was sweet,even more so was the fact that it came against this particular opposition.
The two teams had played each other just a couple of days back,and it was the Indians what had surprisingly lost as they choked in the last few overs of a chase. What added to the pressure was the fact that plenty of words were said as the chase got tighter. At that time Sarfaraz had succumbed and tried a ridiculous ramp shot which he only edged to the keeper. Last time around they were sledging us properly and it didnt feel good. I got under pressure and I tried an irresponsible shot. This time I was prepared, he says.
India were at 150 for four when Khan came to the crease. The score was a precarious 177 for 5 when Deepak Hooda joined him at the fall of Ricky Bhuis wicket in the 38th over. While he is a powerful hitter,Khan chose to avoid going for the big hits and chose to work the ball around in front of square. Before the game,the coach told me to just play in the front. He told me that I dont have to try things like the ramp shot because there is so much risk and my wicket was crucial, he says.
Having been broken down once,Khan says,the fielders went at him again but this time he was ready.
Khan does it again
Using sheer cheek to force the fielders into errors,stealing an extra run where none existed,fooling the keeper into thinking they were going for a run,and then ultimately taking the single on the ricoichette,he did everything. Khan and Hooda,who made 32,would put together 69 off 58 balls as the total grew steadily out of reach.
If the batting had set the Proteas on edge,Indias spinners pushed them over. On a dry wicket that was now staying low,268 was a tall ask. Against an aggressive Indian team,it was next to impossible. Shreyas Iyer may not have scored too much with the bat,but fielding at slip he alongside the other close in fielders did more than enough. With a short cover in place,the South African openers couldnt find a single to get off the strike. The first few overs,runs came in only in singles.
This time around we were doing the talking, says Iyer. The wicket of the teams top scorer Clyde Fortuin run out for 1 as he responded to a sharp call for a single seemed to break them. Sarfaraz came in as change up and picked up two wickets lbw. Hooda got an lbw of his own soon after. A 27 run stand between captain Yaseen Valli and Jason Smith was cut shot by a brilliant run out of the former by Iyer. Kuldeep Yadav (2 for 13 off 8 overs ) and Amir Gani (3 for 18 off five) would wrap up the remainder with five wickets between them.