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Bat first, start slow, go berserk, repeat - India’s mantra in 2024 U-19 World Cup

Last updated on 02 Feb 2024 | 03:56 PM
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Bat first, start slow, go berserk, repeat - India’s mantra in 2024 U-19 World Cup

Game five for India, and it was Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas' time to shine

Uday Saharan and Sachin Dhas played some important knocks in India’s first four games of the Under-19 World Cup but were still not getting the limelight they deserved, mostly because they couldn't get a big score. 

This is what the Under-19 World Cups are all about; they give you a platform to make a name for yourself, and that’s exactly what the two young Indian batters did against Nepal in Bloemfontein on Friday (February 2).

Having almost confirmed their spot in the semis, India made a couple of changes in their batting line-up, pushing the likes of Priyanshu Moliya and Dhas up the order. Meanwhile, the leading run-getter of the tournament, Musheer Khan, was dropped to No. 6. The idea was to give the others some batting time, and Dhas made the most of it. The latter smoked 116 off 101, while skipper Saharan crafted 100 off 107.

This was an important knock for Dhas, who was batting at No. 5 for the first time in this competition. Having batted at 6 and 7 in the first four games, the right-hander from Maharashtra had smashed 82 runs at a strike rate of 146.4. 26* off 20, 21* off 9, 20 off 16 and 15 off 11 - Dhas was playing the tough role of a finisher to perfection but wasn’t getting enough time to get that big score. 

Then there was Saharan, who was scoring runs but was yet to touch the triple-figure mark. The Indian captain played a match-saving knock of 64 in India’s first encounter against Bangladesh but was outshone by Adarsh Singh and Saumy Pandey. Saharan then got 75 against Ireland; however, Musheer ended up slamming a hundred. Saharan got out in the 30s in the last two games so this ton would have been a relief for the 19-year-old.

After India opted to bat, Nepal’s Gulsan Jha and Durgesh Gupta bowled with great control in the powerplay. The Boys in Blue lost Adarsh, Arshin Kulkarni and Priyanshu Moliya by the end of 15 overs and needed a strong partnership. Saharan would always take his time at the start and build his innings. However, everyone wanted to see how Dhas would react in this situation.

Naturally an aggressive batter, the 18-year-old, who will turn 19 tomorrow (February 3), he had all the time to build his innings, and that’s what he did. However, he didn’t compromise on his strike rate. There were no reckless shots, but Dhas still scored 19 runs off his first 20 deliveries and completed his fifty off 50 balls. Unlike the other Indian batters, he didn’t waste too many deliveries at the start of his innings. 

After all, there’s a reason why he has a strike rate of 110.5 in 24 Youth ODIs. Dhas smacked 11 fours and three maximums during his stay in the middle and ended up with the fifth-highest score for a batter batting at No. 5 or lower in a U-19 WC. Meanwhile, Saharan, at the other end was slightly more sedate with his approach. The right-hander operated at a strike rate of 80 in his first 60 balls before hitting 52 off his last 47 balls.

The two complemented each other perfectly, with Dhas scoring most of his runs through the on-side, while Saharan scored more than 60 per cent of his runs through the off-side. Moreover, both of them had a strike rate of more than 115 against pace. Against spin, Saharan went about his business at 77.42, but Dhas was aggressive against them, too, going at 108.62. That six-over extra cover off left-arm spinner Dipesh Kandel was a thing of beauty.

India’s “old school” batting approach

India have won five games so far in this event, and they have done that by doing the same thing again and again. They have batted first in all five games, which could hurt them in the knockouts, but that’s a topic for another day. They start slow in the powerplay, keep the ones and two coming in the middle overs, and then go gung-ho in the last 10 overs. Once India get to 270-280, Saumy Pandey and Co. choke the opposition in the second innings.

A proper traditional approach to ODI cricket, and that’s how India have dominated this tournament so far. “I will be honest, it's been very tough. They have grown up on T20 cricket, but here there are 300 balls in an innings, and to make them understand that it's sometimes tough. But they are reacting well to my messages. We focus on the basic things. When you do that, things turn out well,” said India’s head coach, Hrishikesh Kanitkar.

If you look at what India have done in this WC - they have a mediocre scoring rate of 4.7 in the powerplay but don’t lose too many wickets. Then comes the middle overs, and that’s where they start excelling. India have the best scoring rate (5.1) and average (85.8) in the middle phase, meaning they keep enough wickets for the death overs. They have a scoring rate of 9.3 in the final 10 overs.

More than 31 percent of their total runs in this World Cup have come in the death overs. Even today, India scored 81 runs in the last 10 overs. The “old school” approach seems to work for India so far. However, it will be interesting to see how they respond if they bat first in the semifinal or the final if they qualify. 

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