Handling pressure was the key: Sandeep
Mumbai, Aug 29: Often rocking the opposition on the back foot with early blows, pacer Sandeep Sharma emerged as India U19’s main strike bowler during the successful World Cup campaign in Australia. The title was won with a lot of preparation and planning that began a couple of years back. The Punjab lad displayed his nerves of steel as he helped the team defend modest totals and even guarded his stumps in crucial situations.
In the midst of the celebrations after returning to India, Sharma spoke to bcci.tv about his bowling and the victory.
What does winning the World Cup mean to you?
It means everything to me. This Under-19 World Cup is everything. And since it was my second World Cup, winning it was more important. There is nothing bigger than this in my life, so far.
How did it feel when you came to know that the senior Indian team was following your progress in the tournament and got up early to watch the final?
When we heard this, we were very excited that the senior team is following us. We then spoke amongst ourselves that the whole of India is watching us, so concentrate hard and win the World Cup.
Who is your favourite cricketer in the senior team?
Sachin [Tendulkar] is my all time favourite and after that [Virender] Sehwag.
What is the first thing that you will do after you go home?
The first thing I will do after going home is hug my mother; she will cry and I might cry too.
You have impressed everyone with your ability to swing the ball. How do you work on that aspect of your bowling?
When I started playing cricket, I met my coach M. Bali sir. He told me that your wrist position is very good, so you can swing the ball really well. After I played interstate and when I came to the NCA (National Cricket Academy), I met our coach Bharat Arun and he spoke to me about arm position and wrist position, and that helped me enhance by ability to swing the ball and control the swing.
You have impressed Wasim Akram with your bowling. Have you had a chance to interact with him and get a few tips?
I had interacted with Wasim Bhai during the previous Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, and at that time, I had asked him about reverse swing. He had told me that if you want to reverse the ball, then your arm should be slightly side-on. When you are bowling the new ball, at that time, the over-arm action is best. But when you are bowling reverse swing, the arm will be slightly out, then you get more reverse swing. His advice has helped.
You gave your team crucial early breakthroughs. What kind of preparation went into that?
When I was bowling in this tournament, I used to practice with the new ball in the nets, since I was bowling well with the new ball. I was thinking, the more I practice with the new ball, the better it is because with the new ball I was getting two-three wickets in the first couple of overs, which would put the opposition under a lot of pressure. I was concentrating on bowling with the new ball in this tournament.
How do you practice for bowling in death overs?
Bharat Arun sir has helped me a lot for bowling in the death overs; for bowling yorkers and the slower one. I usually use the knuckle ball in the slower deliveries. He first carefully assessed my bowling and action to figure out which kind of slower delivery will suit me the best. And then, he worked on it with me. He helped me a lot.
What was going through your mind during the last wicket partnership with Harmeet Singh against Pakistan in the quarter-finals?
When I went in to bat, there was a lot of pressure, but we both talked to each other and decided that we will not focus on the scoreboard but will just look to score runs. We decide that we will focus on the ball and play it. Since there were a lot of overs left, we weren’t worried about that. So, we decided that we will concentrate on the ball, forget about the score and just look to stretch the innings till the end as much as possible. The longer we play, the opposition will also feel the pressure. So we just wanted to see who can handle the pressure better.
How did the interactions with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh help?
They are stalwarts of the game and they gave us good tips. Rahul Dravid spoke about playing with patience. There were a lot of things in common in their advice like play for the team and back each other, trust each other’s abilities, trust your partner and just play for India.