January 28, 2000

Indian youth bring World Cup to India

The Indian youth team did the country proud today when they beat Sri Lanka by six wickets at Colombo to win the Under-19 World Cup.

When Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first with a full house crowd drumming up a racket at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo, a shiver or two must have gone through the spines of the Indians. If there were any nerves at all, they did not show at all as Shalab Sriwastava ran in to deliver his first over. After three balls that hinted at movement in the overcast, windy conditions, Sriwastava got one to cut back in to Ian Daniels. The Lankan opener was trapped on the crease and before he could adjust his stroke, the ball had rapped him dead in line. Trapped plumb in front, a dejected Daniels walked back to the pavilion.

The new batsman Jehan Mubarak mixed caution with aggression well, blunting the movement by getting a long stride in. When the ball was up for the drive, both Mubarak and Rashan Pieris went after the ball, hitting clearly through the line. Mubarak in particular was crisp on the drive. Every now and then, Tripathi would tempt the southpaw to go for the drive by pitching the ball up. Unfailingly, Mubarak climbed in to the drive and smacked the ball away to the boundaries. He was not afraid of taking the aerial route and cleared the infield with ease.

After their initial hiccup, the Lankans began to bat freely. The wicket also eased up a bit and fewer balls beat the edge.

After a good spell of 6-2-15-1, Sriwastava was replaced by RS Sodhi. A couple of loud shouts for LBW were turned down in Sodhi's first over, but the lad bowled his military medium pacers unfazed.

In Tripathi's 7th over, the 14th of the innings, Pieris went after a ball that was not there for the drive. The ball struck the bat higher than Pieris expected and ballooned towards mid on. Anup Dave jogged in a couple of steps and completed an easy catch. Pieris had made 17, but looked good for a bit more.

In attempt to get the scoring rate up without striking big boundaries, the batsmen began to take more risks running between the wickets. When Mubarak struck the ball to extra cover and pushed hard on the first run it was clear that the non striker, Kandamby would be struggling on the second run. Venugopal Rao running in from the deep, picked the ball up on the run and threw the stumps down in a flash. Umpire Asoka de Silva asked for the third umpire to adjudicate. The confidence of the Indians' body language was confirmed when the red light sent Kandamby on his way.

The captain Malintha Gajanayake walked in to a huge roar from the crowd and joined the well set Mubarak.

Kaif took himself out of the attack and brought in Anup Dave. The left arm orthodox spinner Dave gave the ball a lot of air and kept it at a full length. He bowled his first three overs for 8 runs. Sodhi, bowling unchanged, finished his 10 overs for just 26 runs.

Malintha Gajanayake played a nothing shot to Dave, attempting to steer the ball to the third man. The ball turned away a shade from the right hander, kissed the outside edge and went into the waiting hands of Ajay Ratra behind the stumps. Sri Lanka had lost their captain, and the score was 99/4 after 32 overs.

Kaif's return to the attack after swapping ends paid immediate dividends. Jehan Mubarak who had occupied the crease for 152 minutes was bogged down by the nagging line Kaif bowled. When one ball stopped on him slightly, his attempt to loft the ball past the bowler ended up in Kaif's safe hands. His innings of 58 helped Sri Lanka consolidate after they had lost wickets early. However, as the overs rolled by, the pressure began to mount and the need to score quick runs became more urgent. In the end, his spending a long time at the crease might have been a blessing in disguise for India.

The Lankans then lost their way, with wickets falling at regular intervals. The last two wickets fell in exciting fashion. Ranil Dhammika attempted a pull shot to a ball that was faster than he expected. The ball ballooned into the air and looked like it would land in no man's land. Sodhi, charging in from midwicket, threw himself full length and just about got his hands under the ball. Tumbling hard on the ground, Sodhi held on to the ball and came up in exultation. The catch was easily the most spectacular of the tournament.

After Sodhi took the catch, he was bleeding from the elbow. He looked winded and it would have surprised no one if a substitute fielder was pressed into action. However he chose to stick on and with good result. A ball played gently to him by Nissanka was flicked back underarm and found the mark. The batsman was well short of his ground and the umpire did not even need the assistance of the third umpire. The finger went up and the Sri Lankan innings had come to an end on 178.

Chasing small totals is not always easy. Though the Indian openers had posted three 100 plus scores, the conditions here at the SSC gave medium pacers some encouragement.

Prabath Nissanka, bowling with the wind behind him, got the ball to move in the air. Manish Sharma took first strike for India and left the ball well alone outside off stump. Sharma did not attempt anything flashy at the start of the innings.

To complement Nissanka, Akalanka Ganegama began tidily from the other end, sending down a maiden over to begin his spell.

Ricky played a wild heave to a straight ball from Lokuarachchi and was clean bowled. Ricky looked restless through his stay at the wicket and it was not a complete surprise that he was dismissed playing an extravagant shot. He had made 18 including three boundaries.

Mohammad Kaif walked out to the middle with spinners operating from both ends. The Sri Lankans set an unusual field to the left arm spinner, packing the off side and leaving huge gaps on the leg side. The ploy seemed to work as the batsmen were reluctant to play against the spin.

Sharma failed to pick a straight ball from Dhammika and was rapped on the pads. He was about half a foot outside the crease. The ball appeared to be going down the leg side with the angle of the delivery. A marginal decision, but umpire Peter Manuel had no hesitation in lifting the finger and sending Sharma on his way. His 27 included five boundaries.

After the fireworks in the semifinals against Australia, the Sri Lankans were wary of Yuvraj Singh and set very defensive fields to the southpaw. However, the situation was very different in the previous game and Yuvraj was content pushing the ball into the outfield and picking up singles. It must be said though that he struck the ball very hard most of the time.

The Indians now made sure they did not lose any more wickets. Yuvraj was less solid than Kaif, and played and missed more than once. When he did middle the ball, it usually sped away to the boundary.

When Ganegama was brought into the attack, the Sri Lankan captain was immediately rewarded as Kaif misjudged the line of a full length delivery and inside edged it onto the stumps. The captain's slow knock of 18 off 50 balls had come to an end just when he looked good.

Sodhi came to the wicket with the score on 94/3. After stroking his way to 27 that included four handsome boundaries, Yuvraj attempted a sweep off a full toss and missed the ball. A loud shout from Pushpakumara, backed up well by the Lankan infielders saw the dreaded finger go up. However, television replays seemed to suggest that the ball may have come off the inside edge.

Niraj Patel continued the fight for India with Sodhi who had helped himself to 16 runs at that stage. India were in a spot of bother at 122/4 after 30 overs.

Patel and Sodhi played sensibly to bring up an easy Indian victory by six wickets. Patel's timing through his innings was exemplary. He did not hit attempt to the ball hard, but instead used the pace of the bowlers to score his runs. He cut the ball behind the wicket, worked it away on the leg side and took very few risks. At the other end, Sodhi played well within his limitations. He ended up with 39 not out off 43 balls. Patel had 34 off 38 balls as India cruised to victory with just under 10 overs to spare.

The tame finish to the game took some of the excitement from the victory. It took some time for the magnitude of the triumph to set in.

At the prize giving ceremony, the Indian team were overwhelmed with emotion and cheered each other on. Speaking to pressmen, the Indian coach Roger Binny said that this team had a similar composition to the team that won the senior World Cup in 1983. More importantly they displayed the same fighting qualities as well, he added.

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