Kolkata: After losing the U-19 World Cup to West Indies Indian wicket-keeper batsman Rishab Pant says their coach, cricketing legend Rahul Dravid told them to take the game as a lesson and learn from it.
On February 14, the famed Indian batting line-up which had delivered all through the event, folded like a pack of cards in the final. India were skittled out for 145. West Indies then overhauled the target with five wickets and three deliveries to spare.
“After the match, Rahul sir told us aIt is a lesson. You guys have to learn from it. But I am proud of what you all have achieved,” Pant told IANS in an interview over phone.
“He also told me ‘You are my champion’. It does not matter to me if we win or lose, for me it is playing till the end.”
When the left-handed opener was asked what went wrong on the Sunday morning at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, Pant said: “It was just a bad day for us. Everything we did went wrong. Till then we had been playing good cricket. But on that day we lost quick wickets upfront. They (West Indies) were also bowling in very good areas, so it was difficult to score runs.”
The 18-year-old just contributed a run to the score before being stumped. But Pant said he was not trying to be over aggressive and just playing his normal game.
“No, I wasn’t trying to be over aggressive, was just trying to play normal cricket. I was trying to play on the merit of the ball,” he said.
The Delhi willower had blasted his way to the fastest fifty in the tournament with a 24-ball 78 against Nepal in the group stages and then scored a nelson against Namibia in the quarters. He also had another 57-run knock to his credit against New Zealand but Pant cannot just get over from the “disappointment” of the final.
“It hurts. We are too much disappointed. Everybody is disappointed, even Rahul sir,” he said.
India were able to take five wickets with West Indies at 77. Asked if the team thought they were in with a chance then, the Delhi lad said: “Yes, from the very beginning of their innings we believed we could win. More so when we reduced them to 77/5. We were diving, stopping shots, we tried our level best but it just wasn’t enough.”
Besides Pant, Sarfaraz Khan sizzled with the bat for India in the tourney. He hit five half-tons in the six matches he played in.
“He is a very good player, a useful cricketer. He batted very well throughout. A player like him gives boost to a team,” Pant said.
Pant’s no-hanging-around in the middle ploy has led to people comparing him with Virender Sehwag. Asked about this, the youngster said he enjoys the comparison but has a long way to go before he can even get close to what the former Indian opener has achieved.
“I have always liked Viru bhaiya’s batting. I wanted to open with him someday but now he is playing for Haryana so that won’t happen. I can’t compare myself with him, he is a legend. But I have heard people do it and I like it when somebody tells me I play fearless cricket like he used to,” Pant said.
Pant also said his next target would be to break into the senior side and stay put there.
“Yes, target would be to play for India (senior team). But I have to keep on performing well to get there. I have the opportunity now to show my skills in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and domestic cricket, but the rest will depend on the selectors, the coaches. But if I get there, I would want to there,” he said.
Pant was looking forward to playing in the IPL where he would represent the Delhi Daredevils.
“It is a good platform for us youngsters. Also there is money in it. So I am looking forward to it. Hope I can live up to expectations. I am pushing myself hard everyday at training so that I am ready for it,a he concluded.
Pant also wished luck to the Indian team for the Asia Cup and the World T20.
(Debdoot Das can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)