Two years ago, he saw India's under-19 World Cup campaign disintegrate against arch-rivals Pakistan, but this time pacer Sandeep Sharma thrilled he could bring all his experience into play and make sure India emerged victorious - with bat and ball.
Though spinner Harmeet Singh too was part of the 2010 U-19 World Cup in New Zealand, unlike Sharma he played in just one game. In that edition, India crashed out in the quarterfinal, losing to Pakistan. And the prospect of a repeat loomed large at Townsville when Sharma joined Harmeet for the last wicket with India still ten runs away from winning the low-scoring affair.
For Sharma, the urge to avenge the defeat against Pakistan this time was too strong to be shaken. "When I joined Harmeet in the centre, we decided to stay calm and focus on every delivery.
We decided not to think about the runs we need to get because we knew if we played out the 50 overs, victory would be ours," Sharma told HT from Townsville.
Apart from the defeat in Lincol, New Zealand, the India juniors had also failed to get past Pakistan on two occasions in the Asia Cup in June-July. They lost in the league by a run and only managed to tie the final.
But there can't be a better feeling than a victory in a World Cup knockout game. "The games in the Asia Cup were very close and it was just not our day. Though we knew Pakistan was a strong team, we were sure we were the best around. There is nothing better than showing them the exit door in a World Cup quarter," said Sharma, who picked up three wickets against Pakistan before scalping four in the final against Australia.
Though coming out on top in a nerve-wracking quarterfinal spurred the team to ultimate glory, Sharma says the goal was set more than a year back.
"When we met for the first time at the National Cricket Academy, the team had visualised winning the Cup. To
win the World Cup was my dream and I am living it right now!"
The Sharma clan was delighted. "Everyone back home could not believe it, they told me how proud the family was. My mom could not stop crying while talking to me. I had to call her back once I had soaked in the moment," said Sharma.