India’s U-19 Asia Cup winning captain Abhishek Sharma is living a dream. Having clinched the title after beating hosts Sri Lanka in the final at the Premadasa Stadium on Friday, the 16-year-old could not have asked for a better finish to the Asian championship.
The left-arm spinner bowled well at crucial junctures in the final to bag figures of 4 for 37 and the man-of-the-match award. The lanky lad credits coach Rahul Dravid for pushing him into plotting India’s win.
At one point, the Sri Lanka batsmen were cruising towards India’s target of 273 with openers Reven Kelly and Hasitha Boyagoda in blazing form. During the drinks break, Dravid instructed Abhishek to introduce himself in the attack. The move worked.
As the captain rolled his arm in the 19th over, he removed Boyagoda and India got the important breakthrough. “Rahul sir was rightly called the ‘Wall’. He has a tremendous cricketing brain. His pat after the final was a gift. He doesn’t express much. Later, he told me to enjoy the victory as it was such a big moment for all of us. His contribution has been immense in moulding this U-19 unit,” said Abhishek.
Kelly (62), who top scored for Sri Lanka, Kamindu Mendis (53) and Hareen Weerasingha (7) were the other victims of the India captain.
Abhishek, who received a rousing welcome on reaching Amritsar on Saturday, said he was adamant on delivering the goods after he failed to score a big knock. “I was dejected on getting out for 29 playing a loose shot. So I promised myself that I would bowl to my strength and help my team win the final.”
Abhishek is a middle-order batsman and has scored big knocks in domestic junior tournaments. He first hit the headlines when scored 1,200 runs and scalped 57 wickets in the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy last season.
“Since yesterday (Friday), what all is happening around me is new. I feel like a movie star. So many people have come to my house to congratulate, the media is gathered in front of the house and I am giving interviews,” he said.
He has now set his sights on the five-match ODI series and two-match Test series against the U-19 England team starting from January 28 in Mumbai.