There seems to be no end to Patiala lad Sandeep Sharma's joy. Pace bowler in the under-19 Indian squad, he is still reliving the memory of winning the U-19 World Cup against the Australian defending champions on August 26.
Sandeep, 19, runs out of words when asked how it feels to be a member of the winning team. Having taken the maximum wickets - a total of 12 - in the tournament, Sandeep's action gave his team the much-needed impetus. On the day of the final, the young star took four most crucial wickets.
The bowler's journey in the world of cricket began when he was 14. "In 2006, I got selected to play for the nationals, and a year later I was picked by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) to be in the U-15 team. In 2009, I got selected for the U-19 Zonal Camp. Finally, it was in 2010 that I got selected for the U-19 team to play in the World Cup. I am lucky to have always been supported by my brother, both emotionally as well as financially," Sandeep shares,
In the one-and-half year whilst training for the World Cup, Sandeep came home for only two months. Says he, "My birth coach, Munish Bali told me that if I worked on my wrist position, I could bowl really well even outside the sub-continent. Before the World Cup, our camp of 45 members was given a lot of exposure, so we were very well prepared. We had played against almost every country beforehand, so we knew their strengths and weaknesses."
The experience of the World Cup, Sandeep cherishes most, as he says, "We had a great time throughout the tournament, since the entire team gelled very well. Though we didn't start on a good note, but as the game gained momentum, so did our team. The toughest match that we played was against Pakistan that went on till the last bowl. It was a real test of the team. And by the time we reached the finals, we were comparatively more relaxed with the knowledge that we could beat the best even in the toughest of conditions. The crowd also really supported us on the final day, and it didn't seem as though we were playing in Australia."
On external factors affecting their performance, Sandeep adds, "Foreign bowlers can generate more pace because of their intake of red meat such as beef and pork. During the tournament, while we usually had a slice of toast, cornflakes, or at the maximum an egg for breakfast, the Aussies had heavy non-vegetarian food. This really helps their muscles to build up and gives them enormous amount of strength."
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Rahul Dravid, Sandeep wants to be one of the men in blue, and eventually win a World Cup. Presently, he is busy preparing for the Ranji Trophy and is hoping to be called by an IPL team. "To achieve one's goal, only four things are required: respect for the game/goal, hardwork, sincerity and discipline," the bowler signs off.