Playing for the first time in India colours even if only at the under-19 level can force the best of prodigies to feel out of place. For the first two balls of his innings,Manan Vohra felt the pressure he played and missed the first one and swiped uglily at the second.
But the third ball changed it all. As the ball ran away to the sweeper boundary after kissing the meat of Vohras bat,the 18-year old from Chandigarh glanced at the burly Alex Pycroft walk back to his mark with sagging shoulders. Suddenly,the mighty Aussies in the gold and green jerseys on the field didnt look as menacing. Thats when I lifted my collar and felt like a star. Bindaas ho gaya,kyun ki mein India ke liye khel raha hoon na, Vohra said with a confident smile.
After that,the serene Port Trust Diamond Jubilee Stadium was Vohras playground. He entered double digits (12) by the end of the first over,and would face just 29 more balls in the remaining innings chasing 164,but that was enough to destroy the Australian under-19 side with 15 crunchy fours and two towering sixes. With his 35-ball 79,Vohra led India to victory in 12 overs a world record in that age group without losing a wicket,in the company of his skipper,Unmukt Chand.
Compared to Vohras pyrotechnics,Chands innings of 40-ball-72 may resemble the classical 50-over template singles initially,the boundaries in the middle,and sixes towards the end. In truth,it was the opposite. A history of throwing away his wicket too early meant Chand started cautious,getting off the the mark after Vohra had raced away to 26 in two overs,then deployed the heavy bottom-hand in an attempt to play catch-up.
Some crossed the ropes,some bounced just before,and for those that stayed within,Chand ran the singles. I initially thought of playing on merit,but watching both my partner and the confused Aussies,I was confident to let go. The truth is,I did not want to play rash shots before getting a start,but thanks to the Manan show,I couldnt help but to go for it, explained Chand.
On perhaps his biggest stage until today,Chand decided to swipe Lasith Malinga for a six when debuting for the Delhi Darevdevils and was bowled first ball. Even on platforms without the IPL flashlights,Chand was criticised for throwing away his wicket,and genius,by turning on the heat too early.
Those mistakes taught me well. I hated defending,although I never had any technical problems. Now,Im curbing my natural style of play for the greater good,and dont want to play in the air till I get a solid start, Chand said.
Each of his three sixes came in a flurry after he crossed 30,the last of which wrapped up the match. Concentrating initially helps you hit shots all over the park, said Chand. After all,360 degrees is better than scoring in just one angle.
While Chand came a full circle on Tuesday,Vohra made his first big-stage splash of any kind. Apart from my three consecutive centuries at the under-15 level for Punjab,there hasnt been much to talk about. I havent yet made my Ranji debut, Vohra admitted. And without too many badges of honour to fall back on,it was a panic late night call to mentor Yograj Singh Yuvrajs father that helped settle nerves.
I was generally blabbering,wondering if I am good enough to represent India. I felt nervous about facing the Australians,the mighty Australians, he said. I thought I wouldnt be able to wear the Indian colours with pride. What did his mentor reply? Yog paaji said,Wear it,and your life will change. It did.
Brief scores: Australia U-19 163 all out in 41.1 overs (Jimmy Pierson 51; Baba Aparajith 5/38,Harmeet Singh 2/26); India U-19 167 in 12 overs (Manan Vohra not out 79,Unmukt Chand not out 72).