For Baba Aparajith, one of India's under-19 World Cup heroes, bringing home the trophy holds much deeper value. After all, the 18-year-old Tamil Nadu player had to sacrifice his studies to scale the peak.
Study or cricket?As World Cup preparations gained momentum in April, the all-rounder was left to choose between his 12th standard board exams and cricket. In the end, it was not a difficult decision as his love for the game prevailed.
"Our preparations were on in full swing with camps taking place. Even the Asia Cup was approaching before the World Cup, so there was no way I could have devoted time to studies," Aparajith told HT from Townsville.
"Though I appeared for five papers, I skipped the last three as my focus at that point was clearly on the game."
As India toured Australia for a preparatory series in April, Aparajith, whose name means unconquered, had to make up his mind before the exams. Eventually, there was no reason for regret as he emerged as a prime contender for the Player of the Tournament award.
Aparajith credits his family's support for helping making up his mind. "My family completely backed my decision of choosing cricket over the exams. It made it really easy for me. And after the victory, they are absolutely elated. What a feeling it is to see your family happy!"
Aparajith, who scored 171 runs and picked five wickets during India's six outings in the U-19 World Cup, believes that the decision to concentrate on the larger picture, that of bringing home the World Cup, paid rich dividends.
"When your dream comes true, it feels good. It is my best achievement till date. Because I have done something for my country, nothing else compares." The moment that inspired and drove the team to the title was the loss to West Indies in the first group game.
"After the loss, we were utterly disappointed. We sat down and told ourselves that no matter what we will stick together. No matter what situation arose, we would back each other."
“We had to win the Cup," Aparajith signed off before packing his bags for the long journey back home.