India U-19 is a big platform: Zol
Mumbai, July 31: Ever since he scored a record unbeaten 451 off 466 balls against Assam in the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy 2011-12, Maharashtra opener Vijay Zol has been in news for his heroics with the bat. The run machine was also the recipient of the M.A. Chidambaram Trophy – Best Under-16 Cricketer, 2010-11. The 17-year-old’s consistent performances on the domestic front earned him a place in the Under-19 India squad earlier this year.
In his first year on the overseas circuit, Zol has already made his presence felt with some superb performances including an unbeaten century against Pakistan in the recently concluded Asia Cup.
Now selected to represent the country in the ICC Under-19 World Cup, the top-order batsman spoke to bcci.tv about his experiences so far.
What was your batting strategy in the recently concluded ACC U-19 Asia Cup?
I kept it simple. I knew my role and what I had to do in the team. I just tried to do that and apply myself. I was batting at No. 4. I read situations well and just did what was needed of me.
Did you have to change or modify your style to better suit your batting position?
Since I was originally an opener who was asked to bat at No. 4, I had to adjust according to the situation. I can go in to bat in the second over itself or in the tenth over; in the final I went in in the 40th over. I just had to read the situation well and apply myself accordingly [...]. As I had to play in the middle of the innings, I had to build partnerships and play till the end as much as I could. That was my role in the team.
Does playing with the lower-order change your approach significantly?
When we get into Powerplays, we are bound to hit shots so we have to choose them correctly. But no major changes. Building partnerships was one of the keys. Keeping wickets in hand was the key for chasing big scores. It was our plan to keep wickets in hand till the end. If we did that, then any total was gettable on those kinds of wickets.
What was it like to bat with your skipper Unmukt Chand?
He is a great player. He plays according to the situation as well. We used to have a talk in between overs about what the situation demanded and used to rotate the strike well. I think we had three good partnerships in the tournament spanning five matches. It was good batting with him. I learnt a lot from him.
Are there any specific lessons you’ve picked up from Chand?
Playing the whole 50 overs and the role of an anchor in the team. And doing whatever it takes to play the 50 overs, like rotating the strike without restricting your shots. It’s not that you will have to play in some [particular] zone [just because] you have to play out 50 overs. I learnt a bit from him.
How was your first international season different from your experience of domestic cricket?
The difference is that the fielding side is a lot better and the margin of error while batting is very small. [...] It adds a bit of mental pressure. [...] It is a big platform for us – Under-19 India. Playing for India is a big responsibility.
What does being part of the Under-19 World Cup squad mean to you?
It is a great honour for me to represent India again and I am seeing it as an opportunity. It is a big challenge for us as a team. We have done really well so far in the last three tournaments so we hope to continue [in the same way]. We will take this momentum into the World Cup and try to win it for India this year.
How do you mentally prepare for the challenges and pressure of representing the nation?
We have a lot of practice games. We are getting used to [difficult] situations; we are practicing hard and training hard. It has been a long time for me [batting at No. 4, so I am getting used to it]. I batted at No. 4 in Australia and after that in the Asia Cup. In the upcoming World Cup also, I guess I will be batting at No. 4. It has been a long time for me [at that position]. So far I have adjusted well and hope to continue the good run.
How are you preparing for the World Cup as a team?
For practice matches we try and play on the type of pitches that [we will encounter in the tournament]. We try to play on quicker, green surfaces on which the ball will do something till the 30th or the 35th over.
How has your coach B Arun helped you adjust to the rigours of international cricket?
In Australia, on my first ever tour, I didn’t do that well; I just scored a fifty against England. He was always with me in those days and when I didn’t perform up to the mark, he always said, “Keep working hard. You are doing well. Your day will come so just keep working hard.” He gave me a lot of mental support.
Your side lost to Pakistan by one run in the league stage of the ACC U-19 Asia Cup despite your century. What went through your mind at the time?
The lower-order – Rush Kalaria and others – played a vital role. As a team we played really well. From nowhere we had clinched the match, but for the last ball. But that is part of the game. [...] We talked about how we should bring it as close as we can without rushing or playing some rash shots. We tried to hold our nerve take it as close as possible.
Did your experience of that heartbreaking league match help you in the final?
We were chasing 288 runs [in the previous match], it was a pressure game for us and it was [an] India-Pakistan [clash] so it added a bit of extra pressure on us mentally. So the positive was, if we could clinch the match as a team from that situation, any target was chaseable for us, against any kind of bowling attack. It was a matter of holding our nerve at crucial points, which we really did well in the final. That helped us a lot mentally as a team.
What are your thoughts on your team?
We are a good bunch of guys. We have won the last three tournaments. We have done really well so far. We are working hard as a team. The coaches, trainers, doctors and physiotherapists all have been working hard with us. We will be working hard during the 15-day camp in Bangalore before going to Australia. We have a good team, a good combination and we are hoping for the best in the World Cup.