How important was winning the U-19 Asia Cup in the build up to next month’s World Cup?
The World Cup will be played at the same venue (UAE) as the Asia Cup. We played against good Asian teams. Some of the teams were stronger and we had not played them in the past year. It is a good experience to win a title before the World Cup and carry the same momentum into the tournament.
How special was beating Pakistan in the final, especially after losing to them in the league?
Pakistan are one of the stronger U-19 teams in the world. Winning against them means a lot not only to me but to the entire team. It’s a morale-boosting victory.
What are the pressures of captaining India U-19 when you go into the World Cup as defending champions?
I don’t take it as pressure. I am enjoying the role. It is good to have the tag of defending champions in that kind of a tournament. The team has proved itself in the last four tournaments, winning them, and that is the kind of confidence we are carrying into it.
With the Indian team strong and every player contributing to the wins, how easy is it to lead the side?
We have been playing together for a long time now. The players are gelling well. The support staff has really backed us. Working at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore has helped us improve. Everyone in the team knows well what his role is. I have also known each of the players well. I know where I can use them, their strengths and shortcomings. It is easier for me to lead this side.
Having been with the U-19 team for quite some time now — you were a member of the Unmukt Chand-led team that won the World Cup in August 2012 — what have you learnt?
The margin of error is very low even in U-19 and Ranji Trophy. You have to be on your toes every time. You cannot relax anytime.
You started your first class career with a century on debut. You scored a double hundred in your maiden first class season. Happy with the progress?
Not actually. Of course, I had a great start but I could have consolidated further. It was a great learning experience and will work hard to make a few more runs.
How keen are you to play in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Mumbai?
I am really excited to play against them. Mumbai are one of the strongest teams in India. It will be a great opportunity for me.
Ready for the next level?
To play for India at the highest level is my dream. But that is not in my control. What is in my control is to perform well every time I cross the boundary rope and step into the field and give my 100 per cent. That’s what I intend focussing on.