Circa January 23, 2010. India Under-19 are up against their Pakistani counterparts in the quarterfinal of the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. The venue is Lincoln’s Bert Sutcliffe Oval. Karnataka opener Kannaur Lokesh Rahul is bowled off the very first delivery of the game. Ashok Menaria’s boys fold up for 114 and Pakistan huff and puff their way in the semifinal with a two-wicket win.
Rahul spent several sleepless nights after that loss. But three years and a few months down the road, he redeemed himself at the Kallang Oval in Singapore on Sunday.
The right-hander, now part of the India Under-23 squad, cracked a fluid unbeaten 93 as his side defeated Pakistan Under-23 to win the inaugural edition of the Asian Cricket Council’s Emerging Teams Cup Tournament.
“I was very disappointed after our Under-19 World Cup loss to Pakistan in New Zealand. I was waiting for this day. I wanted to wear the India jersey and beat Pakistan.
Personally, it’s a very proud moment for me. I wanted to win a tournament for my country and I’ve achieved it. I wish to do this more often,” an ecstatic Rahul told dna.
After packing off their arch-rivals for 159 in 47 overs, India achieved the target in 33.4 overs with Rahul leading the charge with his 107-ball knock. His knock was studded with 11 fours and a six. He shared a 132-run stand with No. 3 Manprit Juneja (51*, 77 balls, 3x4, 1x6). Opener Unmukt Chand made 15. Off-spinner Baba Aparajith (3/28) shined with the ball, while skipper Suryakumar Yadav and seamer Sandeep Sharma picked up two wickets each.
Rahul, adjudged Man of the Match, was elated with his showing in the final. “It’s definitely a special feeling to do well against Pakistan. More so in the finals. I’m happy that I finished the game and won the game for my team and country,” said the 21-year-old. “It was my best knock of the tournament. And I’m happy it came at the right time and when needed most,” added Rahul, who finished the tournament with 321 runs.
“I was not very nervous to be honest, I was seeing the ball well and I have been in pretty decent form in this tournament so I was confident,” he added, rather modestly.
The Bangalore-born wicketkeeper-batsman notched up three half centuries in five matches, but failed to convert them into big scores. “I should have done better. I should have gotten bigger scores . I did not convert my good starts,” admitted Rahul whose scores in the tournament read 46, 88, 51, 43 and 93*.
Rahul is a great fan of his namesake. In fact, the admiration is mutual. Rahul Dravid keeps tab of the youngster’s progress. “I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him, though,” Rahul Jr said.
Has he set himself any targets? “None. I just want to enjoy each game and take each day as it comes. I don’t play for numbers. As far as the season goes, I have the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup coming up. The Ranji Trophy will be important. I’m hoping I prepare well for the season,” he said. Dravid will sure be watching.