"I may have got the Man-of-the-Match award, but my Man of the Match is Samad Fallah."
Yuvraj Singh concluded the crisp post-match presentation after match referee Sunil Chaturvedi adjudged him the Player of the Match for setting Punjab's three-wicket win with a first-innings hundred.
Both the teams clapped for Fallah after Yuvraj's gesture, and the left-arm pacer acknowledged the compliment with a wry smile. Though he had plenty of pats on the back while returning to the dressing room, the leader of Maharashtra's pace attack was obviously disappointed for seeing his team on the losing side despite his 13th five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, and eight wickets in the match.
If you look at him from a distance, you won't believe that Fallah is a pace bowler. He is short, he is chubby. Despite his physique, he has the knack of swinging the ball, an asset for any pace bowler all over the world and a rarity in Indian domestic cricket. During his childhood, Fallah never learnt the art of bowling at an academy or under a coach. He just started bowling in open fields.
When he had gone for Maharashtra's Under-22 selection trials almost a decade ago, he was shoved aside since he didn't have documents to prove his age. Two years hence, the son of an Irani café owner in the heart of Pune made his Ranji Trophy debut. Since then, he has come a long way, playing a crucial role in Maharashtra's dream season last year when they made it to the final after starting in the lowest rung of the tournament.
Ahead of this season, rather than being dejected after finding no takers in the Indian Premier League auction, Fallah decided to work on his match fitness and skills. He represented Colwyn Bay Cricket Club in Glamorgan during the English summer. While his work ethic and preparations have improved immensely, he still remains a maverick on the field.
Even now, he never marks his run-up and varies it all the time. He is famous for his run-ins with the opposition batsmen and even umpires, for which he was penalised in the first innings against Punjab. Still, Fallah never loses the smile on his face.
Maharashtra coach David Andrews speaks highly about Fallah. "Sam is like an Aussie fast bowler," he says. "He just goes hard at all times, he is very competitive. It doesn't matter who he is bowling to, he wants to get him out. And that's the attitude you need from somebody like Sam and he sets a great example for the bowlers. I can't praise him enough for the way he stands up every time. His focus, concepts and planning are very good and the praise that he got from Yuvi at the end of the match says it all."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo