Cricket - Anis & Kalra
Birthday boy: Manjot Kalra (right) receives a 'Mr Cricket UAE' jacket from Anis Sajan on the former's birthday. Image Credit: Supplied photo

India, over the last decade and more, has had several cricketers who after their exposure in the Under-19 World Cup, have gone on to become big names like Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.

It was pleasure to interact with Manjot Kalra, India’s upcoming cricketing talent, whose claim to fame is his match-winning 101 not out against Australia in the 2018 ICC U19 World Cup final in New Zealand, an effort that gave India their record fourth title win.

Talking about the match against Pakistan, where he scored a significant 47, I asked him about his experience of facing the fast bowling of Shaheen Shah Afridi. The match was important as all the eyeballs would be on them and Manjot said: “It was our first international match and that too against Pakistan, the thought itself gave us goosebumps. However once we started playing, the nervousness settled down. Facing the bowling of Shaheen Shah Afridi was a great experience.”

We then spoke about the match against Australia when he scored a whopping 86, Kalra mentioned that he missed century in that match by just 14 runs after getting so close to the landmark. Nonetheless, his performance for the match was decent enough despite the wicket being flat.

He made up for that missed century in the final against Australia by scoring 101 off 102 balls and clobbered eight fours and three sixes to help India win the contest. Reminiscing about the iconic match, he said the massive turnout of Indians to watch them play their first World Cup final gave them the jitters and both he and his opening partner and captain Prithvi Shaw took a while to settle on the pitch. “The biggest moment for me in that match was when the crowd was cheering for me at 99 and waiting with baited breath to score my first century.”

Kalra was only the second Indian U19 player to score a century in the U 19 World Cup.

Summing his emotions at the time, he said: “It was indeed a special feeling for me being applauded all the way to the dressing room but being hugged and appreciated by ‘The Wall,’ our coach Rahul Dravid, was the highlight.”

On being asked as to who was his favorite Indian player, Kalra said it was none other than Virat Kohli and he would like to imbibe Kohli’s fitness and temperament.

I am sure with Dravid now being the head coach of team India and given Manjot’s talent and temperament, we’ll be able to see him playing more games - not only in IPL but also for Team India.

Here’s wishing the birthday boy Manjot Kalra good luck for his future!

- Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is the Vice Chairman of Danube Group