Saharan: ‘I knew it was a matter of one partnership’


Shortly afterwards, the score became 32 for 4, from where Saharan and Sachin Dhas added 171 for the fifth wicket to take India closer. Dhas ensured the asking rate was under control for most of the chase, while Saharan was the sponge at the other end.

When Dhas fell for 96 off 95 balls, India needed 42 from 47 balls. Saharan stayed almost till the end – he was run-out attempting the winning single – scoring 81 off 124 balls to take India, the defending champions, to their fifth successive final.

“There was nothing going on in my mind,” Saharan, who was named the Player of the Match, said. “I had the belief in myself. My only thought was that I would play till the end. I knew it was a matter of one partnership and the match would be ours. So I was just telling myself again and again that I had to take it deep.”

Saharan hit only six boundaries in his innings. When asked about the restraint, he said he got it from his father, who also wanted to become a cricketer but could not.

“He also used to play in the same manner, taking it deep,” Saharan said. “So I tried to do the same. I knew I could play the big shots at the end if required. I knew as long as I was at the crease, the game was ours.

“When I walked in, the ball was seaming around. There was bounce as well. So I had to be conscious of that and could not play my shots freely. As the ball got older, it started coming onto the bat better. The odd ball was still bouncing but by then we were set and could handle it.”

Saharan and Dhas had put on 215 in India’s last Super Six match, against Nepal. On that occasion, India were batting first. Here, they were chasing in a knockout match. In fact, this was the first time in the tournament they were batting second. So what did Saharan and Dhas discuss?

“When I was in the middle, I was telling Sachin – or actually everyone who came in – only one thing: ‘Just stay there till the end. I am here. If you are also here, we will surely get the runs. It will not happen that we are batting and we will not score the runs.’ Outside the boundary line, our coaching staff is so good they never let the mood drop.”

Overall, this is the ninth time India have made it to the final of an Under-19 World Cup.

“It’s a great feeling winning the semi-final,” Saharan said. “Finally, there was a close game. In a way, it was good practice for us. I am happy that we have reached the final under my captaincy as well (laughs).”

“I knew I could play the big shots at the end if required. I knew as long as I was at the crease, the game was ours”

India captain Uday Saharan

South Africa captain Juan James felt there were two periods when the game slipped away from them.

“They bowled really well and tied us down in the middle,” a dejected James said. “And again, when they were batting and we had them four down for 30-odd, Uday and Sachin played really well. I think that’s probably the two periods where we lost the game.”

James also rued his side’s failure to take wickets in the middle overs but said he was proud of the way they fought till the end.

“Yeah, it was something we struggled [with] throughout the whole tournament,” he said. “We just didn’t quite manage to get it right.

“The thing that stands out the most to me is that we never gave up. Even now, we were fighting till the very end. That’s something that makes me really proud as a captain – seeing everyone fight like that.”

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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