India’s Under-19 team winning the 2022 World Cup has rejoiced cricket fans across the nation. With the fifth world title under their belt, they have ruled this tournament. But this victory, under the captaincy of Yash Dhull, has brought back memories of India’s Under-15 World Cup victory many years ago in 1996. Yes, there was an U-15 tournament in that year and it was never tried again.
India won the cup by defeating arch rivals Pakistan at the historic Lords cricket stadium. Both the teams were unbeaten before the final.
It was the year I started watching and keenly following cricket. Hence, I didn’t know much about the game. I wasn’t knowing that countries also participate at the junior levels in World Cups.
I had no idea that such a tournament was being played that year. I just switched on the TV and realized that some cricket match is being played in England. The commentators were referring to it as the ‘World Cup’, which confused me since the World Cup had already taken place that year in February and March in Asia.
I later realized that this is an Under-15 team and that a tournament like Under-15 World Cup even exists. After I came to know that India and Pakistan have reached the finals, I, obviously, followed the match in all excitement. After all, this was the first time I was watching a big final at Lords.
I saw a teenaged sardar guy bowling his heart out in the match as India opted to bowl first. I came to know his name is Reetinder Singh Sodhi. I was impressed with his determination and fiery attitude at such a young age. He played a major role in restricting Pakistan to 222 for 7 with figures of 3 for 34 in his allotted overs.
The Under-15 provided an old world charm in terms of the number of overs. The matches comprised of 55 overs. ODIs were reduced to 50 overs a side in 1985, except for the matches played in England. It was in 1995 that England also adopted the 50 overs’ version. So it was a surprise to see the U-15 World Cup having 55 overs a side in 1996.
In reply, India were in trouble early on as they lost 2 wickets with just 19 on the board. But it was Sodhi again to the rescue; this time with the bat as he scored 82 not out. He was ably supported by the wicketkeeper-batsmen Pradeep Chawla who scored 34. Bhavan Chander also scored a useful 27.
But India were reduced at one stage for 178 for 6. Sodhi, however, guided the team to victory along with the number 8 batsman Vivek Mahajan, who played a crucial innings of 19 not out. India won by 4 wickets with 14 balls to spare. I somewhat remember the well-timed powerful shots by Sodhi.
This was the first time I saw India win a world title; so what if it was U-15? To see an Indian captain lift the cup on the Lords balcony, just like some of the greats of the games in the past including Kapil Dev in 1983, filled me with pride.
Surprisingly, there’s just one proper scorecard available of the match on Cricinfo [see HERE]. Strangely, it doesn’t list the number of balls played by each batsmen and the number of boundaries they hit! Not surprisingly, there’s no video footage of the match available on YouTube either.
But a report of the match by Christopher Martin-Jenkins with the same portal states that the fans of both the countries created ruckus and violence, which also injured few of them. There was an unprecedented crowd of over 8000 people, which the organizers weren’t expecting. Read more about it HERE. To hear from the team of the 1996 Uder-15 World Cup, click HERE.
Apart from Sodhi, the other player that went onto play for India’s senior side was Mohammad Kaif. Interestingly, he became the hero at the same venue six years later in the famous Natwest Series Final against England, along with Yuvraj Singh.
For Pakistan, there were seven players that represented the senior’s national side later – Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Yasir Arafat, Taufeeq Umar, Hasan Raza, Faisal Iqbal and Bazid Khan.
But this isn’t the only World Cup Final achievement for Sodhi. Four years later, he went onto win the Under-19 World Cup for India against Sri Lanka and was awarded the Man of the Match again for his unbeaten 39 and giving away only 26 runs off his 10 overs. This time, Kaif was the captain while the team also had Yuvraj Singh, who was adjudged the Man of the Series.
Interestingly, Raj Bawa, who picked up 5 wickets against England in the U-19 final yesterday and was adjudged the Man of the Match, is Sodhi’s uncle’s [chacha] son. Congratulating him, Sodhi tweeted, “It’s a great feeling when your Chacha’s Son do what you did 22 years back..So Man of the Match of two World Cup Finals in one family.” [sic]
I guess Sodhi didn’t count his own Man of the Match award in the 1996 Under-15 World Cup final. Hence, there are not two but three World Cup Final Man of the Match awards in the Sodhi family.