Punya Mehra
Punya Mehra got a half-century against Canada, that eased the UAE all-rounder's nerves in the ICC Under-19 World Cup. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For UAE Under-19 all-rounder Punya Mehra, his goals are plain and simple. A chat with him shows what a level head and clear thought process he has to reach the next level. As a first step to hit his targets he aims to hone his skills for the longer formats by playing club cricket in the UK, seal a place in the UAE senior team and playing in the Indian Premier League as his ultimate goal.

Mehra, one of the top-performers, also spoke about the struggles and the challenges that he and the young UAE team went through to clinch the Plate final in the recently concluded ICC U19 World Cup in the West Indies.

Mehra got enticed with the sport after watching Unmukt Chand scoring a century in the U19 World Cup final against Australia in 2012.

Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan talks with UAE Under-19 World Cup all-rounder Punya Mehra.

“Since then I was keen on playing in the Under-19 World Cup,” said Mehra, who said he worked hard on his game and fitness to achieve his goal.

Mehra had one of the toughest starts to his international career, getting out cheaply in the Asia Cup at home, both to run outs.

“I would say it was due to the nerves as it was my first game for UAE. I panicked and that led to the run out. It was a good learning curve for all of us,” Mehra added, who played his first match against India and picked Sheikh Rashid as a special talent.

From a nervous start and to the shores of the Caribbean Islands, Mehra relived the success story of the UAE and how he overcame the jitters and scored a half-century against Canada.

Difficult time

While facing the opponents was tricky on the field, the UAE team was affected big time by an invisible foe, Covid-19. Initially, five of the team members tested positive two days before the Plate semi-finals against hosts West Indies.

“Luckily, me and another player tested negative one day prior to the game and we just had 11 to play. Since we didn’t have anything to lose against a Test-playing nation, we did our best. Sending Aayan Khan was a masterstroke and we won the game,” he said proudly.

After beating West Indies, with the newfound energy and confidence, the UAE breezed past Ireland in the Plate final.

Talking about his future, Mehra, who heaped praise on the influence of coaches Mudassar Nazar and Najeeb Amar, says his achievement by the UAE Under-19 will act as the benchmark for the future players to emulate and possibly do better.