Indian U-19 Captain Uday Saharan reveals his mindset during the match winning knock against South Africa

In a thrilling encounter in the first semi-final of the 2024 Under-19 World Cup, India‘s captain, Uday Saharan, played a crucial role in guiding his team to victory with a resilient batting performance. Facing a daunting task of chasing 245 runs against South Africa, India found themselves in trouble at 8 for 2 early in their innings. However, Saharan remained composed and focused on his only goal: to stay at the crease till the end.

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As the wickets continued to fall around him, Saharan found a reliable partner in Sachin Dhas. The duo stitched together a crucial 171-run partnership for the fifth wicket, steering India closer to the target. While Dhas played aggressively to keep the required run rate in check, Saharan played the role of a stabilizing force, soaking up pressure and ensuring that India stayed in the game.

“I had the belief in myself. My only thought was that I would play till the end. I knew it was a matter of one partnership and the match would be ours. So I was just telling myself again and again that I had to take it deep,” Saharan said.

Dhas eventually fell agonizingly short of a century, departing for 96 off 95 balls with India needing 42 runs from 47 balls. Saharan, however, continued his determined innings and almost saw India through to victory before being run out while attempting a winning single. His resilient knock of 81 off 124 balls not only earned him the Player of the Match award but also propelled India, the defending champions, into their fifth successive final.

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Reflecting on his innings, Saharan emphasized his single-minded focus on staying till the end. He credited his father, who also aspired to be a cricketer, for instilling in him the value of playing patiently and taking the innings deep. Saharan’s restrained approach, marked by just six boundaries, was a testament to his maturity and understanding of the game situation.

“He also used to play in the same manner, taking it 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,” Saharan said.

Describing the challenging conditions he faced early in his innings, Saharan highlighted the seaming and bouncing nature of the pitch, which forced him to curtail his natural stroke play. However, as the ball aged and conditions improved, Saharan and Dhas capitalized on their set partnership to navigate the chase effectively.

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“When I walked in, the ball was seaming around. There was bounce as well. So I had to be conscious of that and could not play my shots freely. As the ball got older, it started coming onto the bat better. The odd ball was still bouncing but by then we were set and could handle it,” Saharan explained.

Having previously formed a match-winning partnership against Nepal in the Super Six stage, Saharan and Dhas ofshowcased their ability to excel in both chasing and setting targets. Saharan revealed that his message to Dhas and other teammates was simple: “Just stay there till the end. I am here. If you are also here, we will surely get the runs.” He also praised the coaching staff for their constant support, which kept the team morale high throughout the match.

“When I was in the middle, I was telling Sachin – or actually everyone who came in – only one thing: ‘Just stay there till the end. I am here. If you are also here, we will surely get the runs. It will not happen that we are batting and we will not score the runs.’ Outside the boundary line, our coaching staff is so good they never let the mood drop,” Saharan said.

With this victory, India secured their spot in the final for the ninth time in the history of the Under-19 World Cup. Saharan expressed his satisfaction with the hard-fought win, considering it valuable practice for the team. He also humorously noted that reaching the final under his captaincy added to his happiness.

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“It’s a great feeling winning the semi-final,” Saharan said. “Finally, there was a close game. In a way, it was good practice for us. I am happy that we have reached the final under my captaincy as well (laughs).”

On the other hand, South Africa’s captain, Juan James, acknowledged the pivotal moments that swung the game in India’s favor. He identified India’s disciplined bowling in the middle overs and the partnership between Saharan and Dhas as the turning points. Despite the loss, James commended his team’s fighting spirit, highlighting their resilience till the very end.

“They bowled really well and tied us down in the middle,” a dejected James said. “And again, when they were batting and we had them four down for 30-odd, Uday and Sachin played really well. I think that’s probably the two periods where we lost the game.”

James also rued his side’s failure to take wickets in the middle overs but said he was proud of the way they fought till the end.

“Yeah, it was something we struggled [with] throughout the whole tournament,” he said. “We just didn’t quite manage to get it right.

“The thing that stands out the most to me is that we never gave up. Even now, we were fighting till the very end. That’s something that makes me really proud as a captain – seeing everyone fight like that.”

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In a thrilling encounter in the first semi-final of the 2024 Under-19 World Cup, India's captain, Uday Saharan, played a crucial role in guiding his team to victory with a resilient batting performance. Facing a daunting task of chasing 245 runs against South Africa, India found themselves in trouble at 8 for 2 early in their innings. However, Saharan remained composed and focused on his only goal: to stay at the crease till the end.

As the wickets continued to fall around him, Saharan found a reliable partner in Sachin Dhas. The duo stitched together a crucial 171-run partnership for the fifth wicket, steering India closer to the target. While Dhas played aggressively to keep the required run rate in check, Saharan played the role of a stabilizing force, soaking up pressure and ensuring that India stayed in the game.

"I had the belief in myself. My only thought was that I would play till the end. I knew it was a matter of one partnership and the match would be ours. So I was just telling myself again and again that I had to take it deep," Saharan said.

Dhas eventually fell agonizingly short of a century, departing for 96 off 95 balls with India needing 42 runs from 47 balls. Saharan, however, continued his determined innings and almost saw India through to victory before being run out while attempting a winning single. His resilient knock of 81 off 124 balls not only earned him the Player of the Match award but also propelled India, the defending champions, into their fifth successive final.

Reflecting on his innings, Saharan emphasized his single-minded focus on staying till the end. He credited his father, who also aspired to be a cricketer, for instilling in him the value of playing patiently and taking the innings deep. Saharan's restrained approach, marked by just six boundaries, was a testament to his maturity and understanding of the game situation.

"He also used to play in the same manner, taking it 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," Saharan said.

Describing the challenging conditions he faced early in his innings, Saharan highlighted the seaming and bouncing nature of the pitch, which forced him to curtail his natural stroke play. However, as the ball aged and conditions improved, Saharan and Dhas capitalized on their set partnership to navigate the chase effectively.

"When I walked in, the ball was seaming around. There was bounce as well. So I had to be conscious of that and could not play my shots freely. As the ball got older, it started coming onto the bat better. The odd ball was still bouncing but by then we were set and could handle it," Saharan explained.

Having previously formed a match-winning partnership against Nepal in the Super Six stage, Saharan and Dhas ofshowcased their ability to excel in both chasing and setting targets. Saharan revealed that his message to Dhas and other teammates was simple: "Just stay there till the end. I am here. If you are also here, we will surely get the runs." He also praised the coaching staff for their constant support, which kept the team morale high throughout the match.

"When I was in the middle, I was telling Sachin - or actually everyone who came in - only one thing: 'Just stay there till the end. I am here. If you are also here, we will surely get the runs. It will not happen that we are batting and we will not score the runs.' Outside the boundary line, our coaching staff is so good they never let the mood drop," Saharan said.

With this victory, India secured their spot in the final for the ninth time in the history of the Under-19 World Cup. Saharan expressed his satisfaction with the hard-fought win, considering it valuable practice for the team. He also humorously noted that reaching the final under his captaincy added to his happiness.

"It's a great feeling winning the semi-final," Saharan said. "Finally, there was a close game. In a way, it was good practice for us. I am happy that we have reached the final under my captaincy as well (laughs)."

On the other hand, South Africa's captain, Juan James, acknowledged the pivotal moments that swung the game in India's favor. He identified India's disciplined bowling in the middle overs and the partnership between Saharan and Dhas as the turning points. Despite the loss, James commended his team's fighting spirit, highlighting their resilience till the very end.

"They bowled really well and tied us down in the middle," a dejected James said. "And again, when they were batting and we had them four down for 30-odd, Uday and Sachin played really well. I think that's probably the two periods where we lost the game."

James also rued his side's failure to take wickets in the middle overs but said he was proud of the way they fought till the end.

"Yeah, it was something we struggled [with] throughout the whole tournament," he said. "We just didn't quite manage to get it right.

"The thing that stands out the most to me is that we never gave up. Even now, we were fighting till the very end. That's something that makes me really proud as a captain - seeing everyone fight like that."

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