Mohammad Kaif who led the side to win the maiden U19 World Cup title for India in 2000 “requested everyone not to create hype around the boys” after the U19 WC 2022 victory.
The batter from Prayagraj himself churned out consistent performances, going on to play for India and becoming a pioneer for his sharp fielding.
More than two decades on from that first win, Kaif still gets emotional as he speaks about India’s latest U-19 World Cup triumph, with a four-wicket win over England in the final in Antigua.
Mohammad Kaif on India’s Victory in U19 WC 2022
How do you feel about this win?
It’s quite an emotional win. It reminded me of the 2000 World Cup in Sri Lanka. We all felt proud when the Indian tricolour went up at the prize distribution ceremony. I felt as if I was there on Saturday night when the celebrations began.
The enthusiasm was great; I didn’t miss a single ball in the final. In our days, things were different. It was red-ball cricket in whites. Now, there is coloured clothing and two white balls in one match.
What was the most attractive aspect of this win?
The boys were amazing, showed no sign of any pressure and planned the game ball-by-ball. The juniors didn’t get enough exposure before the event due to Covid-19. Their planning was hit by some Covid cases in the West Indies too.
But they kept their nerve and never succumbed to pressure throughout the tournament. The boys showed great maturity. I was surprised to see the youngsters have such control on emotions while chasing a challenging target on such a surface.
What was so special?
Everyone in the team knew his job. The win was the result of a well-thought plan. First, bowlers like Raj Bawa (5/31) and Ravi Kumar (4/34) set up the match for India. Later, Shaik Rasheed (50), Nishant Sindhu (50) and Raj Bawa (35*) took the side home with the bat. Undoubtedly, India played too many dot balls. But the batters kept their cool to reach the target.
Yash Dhull did great captaincy. I really admire his leadership qualities. Indians didn’t lose a single match through the tournament. The win is because of a well-structured junior programme run by BCCI.
What does the future hold for these boys?
The future of the boys is bright, but they need to stay grounded. It’s a great beginning for them. They have set the first milestone of their careers and now they need to build the future around this.
In the near future, they will have IPL, and thereafter, domestic matches too. With this win, they have got a base for their cricket life. I would request everyone not to create so much hype around the boys. Let them enjoy their cricket.