Uday Saharan was a man of many emotions during the U19 World Cup semi-final against South Africa in Benoni on Tuesday. The Indian captain was calm, unflustered and devoid of negativity even when his side was reeling at 32/4 in their 245-run chase. He soaked pressure like a sponge to water and kept believing. Despite his partner, Sachin Dhas, scoring at more than a run a ball, Saharan didn’t miss a single opportunity to coach his teammate, asking him to be in the present. In between, he also celebrated the boundaries of Dhas, especially the six that he hit off South Africa captain Juan James in the 39th over.
As their record fifth-wicket partnership, grew bigger and bigger, Saharan communicated with Dhas almost after every ball, reminding the right-hander of the ultimate goal. Dhas showed impeccable skills and maturity all throughout his innings but just when he was nearing what could have been the best century by an Indian batter in this tournament, he ended up chipping a Kwena Maphaka slower one to covers. Dhas was dismissed for 96. India still needed 42 runs off 48 balls with five wickets in hand.
Saharan, a teenager from Punjab, knew he had to bat till the end. He continued to pick up the singles and just like Dhas, chatted with new man Aravelly Avanish regularly. Aravelly, however, could not hold on to the urge to go for the big shots for long. In a rush of blood, he ended up playing a poor shot off the last ball of Maphaka to get holed out in fine leg. One could see the disappointment and frustration on Saharan’s face.
The real outburst from Saharan, however, would come in the 49th over. When India required only 1 run off 9 balls, Saharan was run out for 81. Though reluctantly, he ran trusting his partner, Ram Limbani. There was no single in it. Saharan was short of his crease and while walking back to the pavilion he gave a mouthful to Limbani.
A ball later, everything would change Limbani would smash the winning runs and Saharan would charge with his teammates to celebrate India’s entry into the U19 World Cup final for the fifth consecutive time.
Uday Saharan credits father after match-winning knock in U19 World Cup semi-final
But at 32/4, it looked a distant dream. It was only possible because of a record 171-run fifth-wicket stand between Dhas and Saharan. Saharan’s knock had shades of MS Dhoni. The same composure, the same ability to bat deep while soaking up all the pressure.
After the match, Uday would go on to reveal that the habit of not losing hope and taking the match deep has come from his father, Pratap Saharan.
“My dad also used to play similarly; slowly and taking the game deep,” Saharan said after India won the game. “The ball was seaming early on but once the ball got old, it started coming onto the bat better.”
“We were well behind at one point. Kept saying one thing we have to bat till the end. Was a matter of one partnership. When I walked into bat, ball was nipping a bit, and there was good bounce. Later it started coming onto the bat better. We don’t let the morale get low in the dressing room at all – our environment and coaches are superb. Great feeling to reach the final. Got a taste of close games,” he added.