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'We've been waiting for this feeling for very long'

Head coach Al Khadeer praises the team's self-belief and fighting spirit throughout the tournament

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
Shafali Verma - "We did what we were here for"  •  ICC/Getty Images

Shafali Verma - "We did what we were here for"  •  ICC/Getty Images

Nooshin Al Khadeer, the head coach of the victorious Under-19 Women's team, has admitted that the World Cup was something India had been "waiting for very long", while praising the depth in women's cricket and its bright future in the country.
India, captained by Shafali Verma, bowled out England for 68 in the final at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom and cantered to a seven-wicket win to take home their first world title in women's cricket.
"This is the feeling we have been waiting for very long," Al Khadeer told the broadcaster minutes after India's victory. "This is the first time we have won the cup and it has come with the Under-19 kids. It just shows the kind of depth we have and what is there for us in the future."
Through the competition, India only dropped one game - against Australia in the Super Six, where they were bowled out for 87. But they bounced back with a thumping win on the next day against Sri Lanka to all but assure themselves of a spot in the semi-final.
"The most special thing about this team is belief," Al Khadeer said. "I know it was a bad game against Australia. But the way they regathered and played thereafter, all credits to the vibes we have. We've kept it very simple. We thought that we would play proper cricket and simple cricket to achieve this."
This was after India fell agonisingly short in the 50-over World Cups in 2005 and 2017 and then finished runners-up in the T20 World Cup in 2020 as well as the Commonwealth Games last year. Al Khadeer was part of the Mithali Raj-led team that lost to Australia in 2005 in Centurion. It was the first time India had made the finals of a World Cup.
"People have been telling us that a lot of athletes have tried it and couldn't get it [the World Cup win]," Titas Sadhu, the Player of the Match, said. "So it is the first cup for the Indian women's side. We are all excited.
"The first time BCCI took us under [their wing from the Women's Cricket Association of India in 2007], it was after 2005, when Nooshin ma'am played the World Cup and they lost the final. For us to win it, for her being our coach, it was really superb."
Following the win, the BCCI announced a cash reward of INR 5 crore to the team and its support staff. Al Khadeer managed to keep her emotions in check while speaking about what the title meant for the women's game in India.
"Right from the national anthem till the time we won, we had goosebumps," she said. "I realise and understand how special it is for us. To live it [the dream of winning World Cup] through the young girls it is commendable."
Sadhu returned figures of 2 for 6 off her four overs and was instrumental in stifling England right at the start. She first had opener Liberty Heap sky a catch to her before bowling wicketkeeper Seren Smale through the gate. As the lone seamer in the XI, she said she banked on the spinners' support from the other end.
"It's not quite lonely [being the only fast bowler in the XI] because we are team-mates," she said. "I have the other bowling partners, spinners with me. We have played two matches here against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. And we also watched the games played here. So we had a pretty good idea on where to bowl."
Shafali, who alongside Richa Ghosh is part of the senior side that is to play the Women's T20 World Cup starting February 10, will join the Indian setup on February 3, a day after the tri-series featuring South Africa and West Indies ends.
"We did what we were here for," she said. "The girls are incredible and back each other. The coaching staff kept reminding us what we are here for. Because of them we are here so thanks to them."
When asked if the Under-19 cup is the only trophy she is going to go home with, she quipped: "No, the bigger one also."

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo