When it comes to cricketers from India and Pakistan, success, irrespective of how many runs scored or wickets taken against other opponents, is gauged to a large extent by how they have performed against the arch-rivals.
Going by that yardstick, India’s current Under-19 skipper, Vijay Zol, is doing rather well. Zol made a composed 100 against Pakistan in the Asia Cup final on Saturday and helped his side post a formidable 313. Pakistan fell 40 runs short and Zol and his boys became heroes in their own right.
His century, which came off 120 balls, was Zol’s second against Pakistan. He had earlier made 109 in a group match of the 2012 Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur. However, on that June day, Zol who stayed unbeaten, saw his side fall agonizingly short of the Pakistan total as India lost by one run.
However, on Saturday, in front of a vociferous crowd at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the 19-year-old ensured that his side went the distance when it mattered. The southpaw, struck seven fours and two sixes but more importantly calmed nerves in the dressing room when the two openers departed in quick succession.
“It is always a hard to play against Pakistan. We knew that and we began well. There were a few uneasy moments but when I went in to bat, I had a clear plan. I decided to just rotate the strike. I knew that if I batted for a while, things would get easier,” he said.
The match was played at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, a venue the senior teams of India and Pakistan have locked horns in many a battle. Zol said that the atmosphere inside the stadium was charged. “An India-Pakistan game is intense. Every ball was like a war. At first it was uneasy, with all the spectators and the noise. But I think everyone settled down as the game progressed,” he said.
Did the fact that India were playing Pakistan in Sharjah weigh on the minds of the budding cricketers who were not even in their teens when the rivalry was played out at the venue?
“Everyone has watched videos of India-Pakistan in Sharjah. Everyone knew that we had to bring out something special, do something extraordinary and I am glad we did that,” he said.
Zol said that he and the other centurion Sanju Samson targetted the Pakistan spinners - left-arm