Malaysia's positive vibe
Malaysia captain Suhan Kumar Alagaratnam has credited his team's youthful exhuberance for its sem-final placing at the ACC Trophy in Kuwait last week. It was Malaysia's first semi-final appearance since 2002.
"With an average age of 23 we were clearly the underdogs from the start and just allowed us to play with more freedom," said skipper Suhan Kumar Alagaratnam, himself aged 23.
Coming off just knocking United Arab Emirates out of the tournament, his team were completely unfazed when Nepal set a stiff target to get into the final. "We did not for once thought that we had lost after giving 271 runs and was 2-6 when I walked in and the camp was always chirpy till the last over and everyone of us believed that we can do it."
Alagaratnam and experienced all-rounder, Suresh Navaratnam knew what needed to be done. "The wicket was flat and if we batted out our overs we would come close - when Suresh joined me at the crease we told each other that one of us [must] bat through and make a ton if we were to be a chance but tough luck we lost by 8 runs."
Navaratnam hit a feisty 115 from 103 which included six fours and three sixes to propel Malaysia close to the second major upset in two days after the giant-killing effort the day before to dispose of UAE.
A product of the Malaysia Cricket Association youth system, Alagaratnam added the mix of youngsters with veterans such as Navaratnam and Rakesh Madhavan was a catalyst for the improvement. "The difference this time around that I have seen is the team is well blended with raw young talent and experience."
Alagaratnam said Navaratnam had been determined to bounce back from World Cricket League Division Six tournament where he was not at his best. "He was struggling with a few injuries and he took a break which did him all the good and worked on his game very hard. Suresh has always played well for us and we are very grateful to have a player like him. His form on this tour has been amazing both with the bat and ball. With all his experience I always think he is always informative - he's an inspiration to all the youngsters in the team and is a great team man. As a young captain I'm still learning a lot from the legend."
Malaysia finished off their tournament with a seven run loss to Hong Kong in the third/fourth place play-off. That other veteran in the Malaysian team, Rakesh Madhavan, displayed some exuberance of his own in smashing 129 from 137 deliveries, including four sixes and nine fours. Malaysia didn't win the tournament but it was a confidence booster according to Alagaratnam. "Now that we know we can beat teams like them its the question of maintaining a certain standard and keep playing good cricket like the other strong cricketing nation."
Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo