On Saturday, as India U-19 cricket team lifted the Champions Trophy at the Seventh ACC U-19 Asia Cup Trophy by beating Bangladesh by five runs in the finals at Columbo in Sri Lanka, 18-year-old Chandigarh cricketer Arjun Azad had double reason to celebrate even though he had got out on zero in the match.
The youngster was adjudged as the player of the tournament as he had smashed 121 runs against Pakistan earlier in the tournament and had accumulated a total of 202 runs, including the century against Pakistan and one half-century against Kuwait.
“Even though I failed to open my account in the final, winning the U-19 Asia Cup title trophy means a lot to me. It was a close final and the whole team celebrated after the title win. The century against Pakistan, earlier in the tournament, was a special innings for me and to get the player of the tournament trophy here, means a lot. It will motivate me a lot in the coming months,” said Azad.
Son of Panchkula business man Sanjeev Azad, Arjun Azad had enrolled at St Soldier Academy nine years ago with the wish to become a leg-spinner, under coach Jitendra Kumar, who had advised the youngster to concentrate on batting instead. Later, Azad also trained under coach Harminder Pannu at Guru Nanak Public School, Chandigarh and last year, he made his way into the Punjab U-19 team.
Azad scored a total of 407 runs, including one century (125 not out against Hyderabad) and three half-centuries in the BCCI Vinoo Mankad U-19 Trophy. He, then, scored 440 runs, including one century and two half-centuries in the BCCI Cooch Behar U-19 Trophy and was selected in the India A side for the U-19 quadrangular series involving India A, India B, South Africa and Afghanistan U-19 sides. Before the U-19 Asia Cup, Azad had smashed five half centuries in nine matches, while playing for the NCA Jaipur Zone team in the NCA Inter-Zonal Series held recently.
Last year, Azad had played a knock of 151 against Maharashtra in the Dhruv Pandove Trophy, where he smashed bowlers like Arjun Tendulkar, son of former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. The youngster’s performance in Sri Lanka also raised his hopes of selection for India for the next year’s U-19 World Cup.
“Arjun’s biggest strength has been his focus and determination to play big knocks. In Sri Lanka too, he had a strike rate of more than 100 and it will give him a lot of confidence. The century against Pakistan proved that he can handle pressure well. The performance in Sri Lanka will also make his case strong for next year’s U-19 World Cup to be played in South Africa,” said coach Harminder Pannu.
“To see Arjun winning the player of the tournament is a special moment for all of us. It’s the reward of all the hard work done by him,” said Sanjeev Azad, Arjun’s father.