The only thing my mind kept going back to before our 2012 World Cup final against Australia was 'where did the last one year go?' We were together as a group for close to 18 months, and had grown together as a family. Now, suddenly the realisation that we will drift into our own lives and outgrow the Under-19s was a strange thought. I was very emotional because the long journey was about to end.
A day before the final, we were trying to take it as just another game. Because we were in Townsville and not in the big cities, the hype wasn't that much. We were completely insulated from what was happening back home, which helped in a way. All of us wanted to win it for each other. Soon after the national anthem was played, we just said to each other: 'Let us conquer this moment and play without fear.'
We were a diverse group, but bonded really well. Wherever we went, it was together. Fortunately, we found some really nice people who would call us for dinners, lunches and show us around Townsville. It was very nice of them to do that. There were the magnetic islands nearby, which we explored on our off days. We were staying at a beautiful resort where we organised barbecues by the water. Being in an environment like that took us away from the game from time to time.
Personally, the moments after we won the final was a bit of a blur because I got a hundred. I was so engrossed in the match that it took me a while to realise what had just happened. I was emotionally drained for two reasons: just the circumstances of the knock and that we were parting ways. Later that night, we all gathered together for a celebratory dinner. That is when it struck me that we were Under-19 champions. There was deep-seeded happiness inside our hearts.
Our return flight was a long one, from Sydney to Dubai and then Mumbai. I spent a lot of time writing my journal. We spent time talking to our coaches and everyone else about the way forward. We caught up on some sleep, and the moment we landed in Mumbai, it was mayhem.
I hadn't ever seen so many people at the airport. They were all there to welcome us. There were TV cameras chasing us. That is when we realised we had become household names. For the next four days, I couldn't remember a thing, really. I was supposed to fly out to New Zealand with the India A team the week after, and I had just three days at home. For each of those days, there were literally hundreds of journalists who were outside my house, wanting to talk to me and my family. Everyone wanted a slice of each one of us. We were treated as superhumans.
From what I've seen of the current Under-19 batch, I can say they're much ahead of what we were. The batsmen have clicked, the bowlers have been phenomenal. I don't think I've seen such an agile fielding unit as this one. My only advice to them will be to enjoy the occasion, play for each other, have fun and not get carried away, because that is the only reason I see where something could go wrong. Just stay happy, embrace pressure.
As told to Shashank Kishore