Mohammad Kaif. Virat Kohli. Unmukt Chand. Now Prithvi Shaw. Each of them know what it takes to win the World Cup at the Under-19 level. There are images of each of them celebrating their triumph wildly. Shaw’s in comparison was the most mellowed.
Shaw is up to many pranks at the best of times. At every press conference, he’s had a whacky answer here, a fun answer there. On Saturday, however, he was struggling to put words to his thoughts. The overwhelming feeling of reaching a goal they set themselves 18 months ago overpowered all else.
‘Feeling really good’ was repeated almost every second line, until he was self-conscious of it. In his moment of glory, he immediately thanked the fans who came out to support India. For close to an hour after India lifted the cup, he spent time posing for pictures, doing a lap of honour with the team and then sitting back to sign souvenirs.
As he trudged in to a room with multiple cameras, the energetic Shaw just a few moments earlier became a lot more self-conscious. “This is the last match for us at the Under-19 level for a lot of us, but there are so many memories that stand out with this group,” he said, after a pause to gather his thoughts.
“I can’t pick out one moment right now, nothing comes to mind right now. I can’t express what I’m feeling. I’d like to thank the fans. We did not expect this fan support when we came here, they always had us pumped up. There’s been so much love in New Zealand.”
All tournament, India have bossed over other teams, but there was a small worry in the camp at the halfway stage. The fear of taking things too lightly hit them gently, Shaw later said. He called his teams into a huddle as Australia’s innings finished, a first for this team, and was quite animated as he did all the talking.
“We felt 217 wasn’t a big score, but I didn’t want us to be casual,” he said. “It’s a big match, a World Cup final. I just wanted to remind the team that. I told them to be calm, patient, build partnerships and do the little things that helped us get here.”
Manjot Kalra, player of the final, later elaborated on the chat in the middle and in the dressing room. “(Rahul) Dravid sir told us how a casual dismissal in the Under-19 final in 2016 proved to be a turning point. Rishabh Pant walked out of the crease and was stumped, I think. He told us how he didn’t want us to repeat those kinds of mistakes and play with the same seriousness that we have shown all tournament.”
As realization struck that this was perhaps the last time the current group would play together, Shaw reflected on the friendships. “We will play against each other, meet each other, so I don’t think there will be any emotions running high,” he had said in the build-up to the final. Now, with a winner’s medal around his neck and the Trophy beside him, the emotional side of him surfaced again.
“This has been a fun journey. There’s been a lot of poking fun at each other,” he said. “We have spent two years preparing for it. There will be emotions when we say goodbye. Even if we don’t go on to be a part of a senior World Cup winning team, we will have this to remember. The entire team backed me right through he tournament. Gill was a superb vice-captain. Whenever I felt I was under pressure, the team was with me and that is a good feeling. To be sitting here with a World Cup medal is unbelievable.”