U19 World Cup: Uday Saharan, Sachin Dhas toast of India after fifth straight final

Ganguly, Gambhir gush as the duo's rescue act takes defending champions home

Uday Saharan, captain of India under-19 (closer to camera), and Sachin Dhas celebrate their two-wicket semi-final win against hosts South Africa on Tuesday night. (photo: ICC)
Uday Saharan, captain of India under-19 (closer to camera), and Sachin Dhas celebrate their two-wicket semi-final win against hosts South Africa on Tuesday night. (photo: ICC)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

A fifth consecutive Under-19 World Cup final for defending champions India tells a lot about the reserves of cricket talent in the country. However, it nearly turned out to be a case of semi-final jitters spoiling the run against a talented South Africa on Tuesday evening – but for a record 171-run partnership for the fifth wicket between captain Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas.

No wonder, these two youngsters have become the talking point in the media as both Dhas (95) and Saharan (81) showed a welcome maturity of not getting the pressure get to him after India were reduced to 32 for four while chasing a challenging target of 245 in 48.5 overs in Benoni of South Africa.  They will now take on the winners of the second semi-final between Australia and Pakistan in Sunday’s final.

‘’What a win from being 32 for 4 .. fantastic performance from the young boys .. some good talent in this South African side too @bcci,’’ former India captain Sourav Ganguly gushed on his X handle. Gautam Gambhir, a two-time World Cup winner, said: “Fifth consecutive #U19WC final! Well done boys!”

Sweeping into the last four with an all-win record, India were off to a disastrous start before Uday and Sachin (named after the Master Blaster, naturally) began the rescue mission – mixing caution with aggression after losing four quick wickets upfront. The partnership between the two was a masterclass in innings building and chasing as they milked singles relentlessly while putting the poor deliveries away for boundaries.

“I just believed in myself [after coming out to bat]. I knew it was a matter of one partnership and the game would be ours. I just kept telling myself repeatedly that I needed to bat till the end,” said Uday, who has now overtaken teammate Musheer Khan – brother of India international Sarfaraz Khan – as topscorer of the tournament.

A Mumbai boy, Sachin’s father Sanjay – a big fan of Sunil Gavaskar himself – named his son after Tendulkar and wanted him to be a cricketer even before he was born.  “I had decided before he was even born that he would become a cricketer. His training started when he was only four and a half years old,’’ he told the Indian Express. A batter with a penchant for hitting the big sixes, Sachin had earlier scored 116 against Nepal at the ongoing event.

Skipper Uday, who hails from Punjab and has earlier led India in the U-19 Asia Cup, had been riding a great form throughout their South African odyssey – scoring a century and three fifties along the way. When he walked out to bat, the India colts were tottering at eight for two but Uday led from the front with an innings of 81 off 124 balls – taking India to their ninth final in this tournament.

Speaking to the media, Uday said his father who also wanted to be a cricketer, always taught him to value his wicket. ‘’He also used to play in the same manner, taking the game deep. So I tried to do the same. I knew I could play the big shots at the end if required. I knew as long as I was at the crease, the game was ours,’’ Uday said.

The U-19 World Cup has a legacy of producing some of the biggest names in Indian cricket in the new millennium – from the likes of Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli to Shubman Gill. Only time can tell if the likes of Uday and Sachin can join the big league!

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