This time, the choke’s not on India. It was hard labour as cricket fans furiously switched TV channels all Sunday, but in the end the reward was sweet and memorable. On a historic day for Indian cricket, youth and experience served up a double delight, coming up trumps in two tense final encounters spread across continents, bringing lumps to the throats of frenzied Indian fans from India to Kuala Lumpur to Sydney .
In KL, Delhi batsman Virat Kohli’s Indian team won the Under-19 World Cup , beating South Africa in a bitterly fought, rain-hit final by 12 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis formula. Just hours before the colts exploded in a burst of euphoric celebrations, the experienced hand of Sachin Tendulkar had guided India to a convincing six-wicket victory over the mighty Australians in Sydney. Tendulkar scored a majestic, unbeaten 117 as India successfully chased 240 for victory, his first ODI ton in Australia and his 42nd overall. Here too he was aided by youth, as Rohit Sharma contributed 66 in a 123-run fourth-wicket stand.
MS Dhoni’s team now have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three tri-series finals, putting to shade all the snide off-field bluster from the likes of Matthew Hayden, and proving hollow Oz skipper Ricky Ponting’s claim, in his TOI column, that the “third final won’t be required”.
The juniors didn’t have Tendulkar’s assured genius to bank upon, but as they have throughout the tournament, Kohli’s boys backed themselves with gusto and raised their game in crucial situations to come up with a spirited win, India’s second U-19 Cup triumph since Mohammad Kaif’s team won in Sri Lanka in 2000.
It was a nervy affair from start to finish, and rain complicated the situation. Last time, the juniors had stumbled chasing 110 against Pakistan in the final, but this time they showed no such panic.