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Prajakta Pawar in Mumbai 05 September 2013 - 06:09pm IST

Pressure inspires to perform: Manprit

India A batsman speaks about his dreams, handling pressure and Sir Viv’s advice

Like every sportsman, representing the country was always the dream for Manprit C Juneja. With his sight set on wearing the Team India jersey, the soft-spoken batsman has been working relentlessly towards it.

Speaking reverently about his time in the middle while batting for the India Under-23 side, he said, “Amazing! Because in the first match that I played, whenever I was looking to the left of my chest and looking at the BCCI symbol (it felt great). Because I have waited really long to wear that symbol on my chest. Even in the nets, in my first match, the first ball I faced, it was an amazing feeling because I was seeing myself in those blue colours and the BCCI logo on my chest and singing the national anthem right before the match. It is a feeling I will remember throughout my life.”

Juneja has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and is keen to make the most of it. After a couple of sterling performances for India Under-23 in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup – semifinal (76) and the final (51*) – he notched up a century (193 runs) for the India A side against New Zealand A in the ongoing home series while sporting the revered logo.

After returning triumphant from Singapore, Juneja spoke to bcci.tv ahead of the bilateral series against New Zealand A.

Excerpts from his interview:

What did playing in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup for India U-23 mean to you?

It was honestly a dream come true because since I was a kid, I always wanted to play the Under-19 World Cup and play for the Under-19 India team. But that dream never came true, and though a little late, but I am glad I got the blue jersey.

You played a crucial role in semi-final and the final of that tournament. Can you talk about that?

We were struggling with the batting line-up and we had lost to Afghanistan in the league phase. So it was time for us to pull up our socks, and especially for guys like me, Ashok Menaria, Unmukt Chand, who were in the India A team as well. So we had an added responsibility as the senior members of the team to really deliver. And that is what made us have that feeling that we need to step up, especially me; I had this feeling that I need to pull up my socks and do something for the team and I was glad that it came out in the important matches like the semi-finals and the finals.

You have said in an earlier interview that Sir Viv Richards’ advice helped you? What did he say that remained with you and how have you been working on it?

The talk about having confidence no matter where you are and what you are playing helped. So I was just carrying the confidence along in this tournament. And despite playing against an international side, I never doubted my abilities, whether I will be able to perform at this level or not. It was always in me that I will do well and no matter what the opposition, I will be performing well. Despite having a couple of bad innings that confidence wasn’t broken, because there was an example that Viv Richards gave of himself. He had a very bad debut, but after that he made a great come back in Tests. So that was one thing that had stuck to my mind, it was that you have to keep your confidence high no matter what. A couple of failures here and there do not matter. So I am glad I could make a comeback and that is what is important. Failing is not important, but how you take the failure is important.

So what do you tell yourself?

During those times, like against Nepal I didn’t play a good shot, I wanted to up the ante for the team but I could have done it in a different manner as well. So I just made a plan for myself, tried to stick to that plan to bat for a longer period. Because being an attacking batsman, I had no doubt in my ability to maintain a good strike rate and score runs and find gaps. So it was just a matter of spending some time there. And once you spend some time and get to around twenty runs, it gets easier. And making runs is like a habit so once I scored runs in the semis, I was pretty confident of getting runs in the final as well.

Describe the pressure while playing Pakistan U-23 in the final?

Well there was pressure, but all of us tried to take it like another match. It wasn’t the last match of our careers, and we still had a lot to look forward to. So we wanted to treat it like just another match. You try to not put yourself and the people around you put you under pressure. You have people walking on the road, meeting you at the restaurant, wishing you to play well. You go to the ground and the staff there is also wishing you too. No matter what, that added pressure is there, but you learn to overcome it. Once the match starts, it is you alone; if you leave those things behind and take it as well wishes, they work in your favour, but if you take it as pressure, it will go against you. And one thing about pressure that I always believe is that pressure is like a gift – if you are in a pressure situation, you are gifted with the opportunity to perform. So I always like to take pressure in a positive way.

Can you elaborate on your match-winning partnership with KL Rahul?

The best thing of our partnership was that neither of us was thinking of our milestones. The only thing that both of us wanted was that two of us should complete the target and not even one run should be left to someone else. We are glad we did that, and it was a really comprehensive victory that was much appreciated.

What is the way forward for you now?

I am just taking it (India A) as another step ahead and just want to do well. I want to do well in any game I play, so I am not taking it as extra pressure or something that is out of reach. I want to take it as another match and play what I need to.