Kapil ’83’, Kohli’s pep talk before U-19 World Cup final

India and England will face off in the final of the Under 19 World Cup on Saturday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. Interestingly, both teams have remained unbeaten throughout the tournament.

For India, a record fifth title is an objective in their fourth successive final, while for England, it’s been 24 years since the likes of Rob Key, Graeme Swann, and Owais Shah swept New Zealand aside by seven wickets in Johannesburg to take the trophy.

On the eve of the much-anticipated final, the Indian camp didn’t have long meetings. Instead, the team gathered together to watch the Bollywood movie ’83’. The film is based on the Kapil Dev led Indian team’s famous against-the-odds win over the mighty West Indies in the 1983 World Cup in England.

Former India captain Virat Kohli too called the team to motivate them. Captain Yash Dhull said the interaction with Kohli was beneficial for the boys. Kohli, who went on to become a world-beater after captaining India U-19 to the title in 2008, shared his experience of handling pressure in big games like a World Cup final.

Dhull said: “It will be a good challenge against England. They play attacking cricket and look to dominate the opposition. Our approach against them will be to bowl as many dot balls as possible.

“The team morale is high. We are excited to play the final. It’s the final but it is still just a game. So, we will play with the positive mindset, stick to the basics and we will look to execute our plans.

“He (Virat Kohli) gave us his best wishes as the team is doing well. So, his words will give us confidence. When a senior player speaks with the team, the team morale gets a boost. He spoke to us about some basic things such as how to play normal cricket, how to stick to our game plan etc. It was good to interact with him.”

The current batch of India U-19 team had endured one too many obstacles on their way to the final. The pandemic impacted India’s preparations for the event, with hardly any national camps or tournaments in the last two years except the recent Asia Cup.

The four-time champions started the tournament on the right note, overcoming a good South Africa side by 45 runs, but soon ran into a situation where they were struggling to field a playing XI after multiple players were found to have contracted Covid-19 hours before their match against Ireland.

Five members of the squad were unavailable for their second group clash against Ireland on January 19 after a Covid outbreak.

Captain Yash Dhull, his deputy Shaik Rasheed, Aaradhya Yadav, Manav Parakh and Siddarth Yadav were part of that group and missed both the Ireland and Uganda fixtures, forcing the BCCI to fly in reinforcements.

India were without many players for their match with Uganda and had to call in six reserves to play with the non-infected members of their squad.

But a spirited India overcame all the challenges thrown at them and soundly defeated Ireland and Uganda before prevailing over Bangladesh by five wickets in a tricky chase in their quarterfinal match, followed by a 94-run win against Australia in the semi-finals.

England skipper Tom Prest is only too aware of that history and how much his side have already achieved, and with the likes of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan having been in touch to offer their support, he is hoping to imitate the squad of 1998.

He said: “It’s the first time in 24 years that England have been in this final. I don’t know if we can believe it at the moment, we’re going to be playing in a World Cup final. It’s something you dream of growing up, so we’re all really excited and can’t wait to play.

“This morning we had messages from quite a few of the England senior team, saying that they had been following it and been really impressed with us. So it’s nice to know we have so much support from back home.

“They were saying that how impressed they have been with us and proud of what we have done getting to our first Under-19 Men’s Final in 24 years. It’s amazing to know they have been watching and following.

“We’ve tried to play that attacking brand of cricket that Eoin Morgan instilled in his squad. Whether that is with the bat, ball or field, we always try to take the positive option. That was one of the messages they were saying in their video they sent this morning – to not back down from the big occasion in the final and still play with that positive intent.”

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