Smit Patel not only played the role of wicket-keeper for the India U19 team this World Cup, but also kept the hopes alive for India to win the Cup. This 18 yr old from Gujarat will hope to keep the legacy of wicketkeepers from Gujarat like Kiran More, Nayan Mongia and Parthiv Patel going. He has been staying in Ahmedabad only to play cricket, since his parents are settled abroad.
India didn’t start the WC on the most positive note – we lost to the West Indies early on. At that point, did you think you guys could go all the way?
Yes definitely. We were not thinking about the defeat, but pointing out the positives from the match. We never thought of losing. We always believed that we can come back from any given situation.
What did the pre-match talk before the Final consist of?
It was nothing new. We kept things simple tried to be normal, and cracked a few jokes to lighten up the atmosphere.
What was your first reaction to being promoted up the batting order in the final?
I was never shocked as I expected the promotion, because I was knocking the ball well in the tournament and everyone was pretty confident about me.
What frame of mind did you come out with when you went in to bat in the final? Did you believe India had more than a fair chance at that stage?
I had a pretty clear mind set when I came into bat. I always felt confident and wanted to play positively and make a good partnership, and we succeeded. Definitely there was always a chance for us if we had a good partnership, and we did just that.
What did Unmukt Chand say to you when you joined him at 97/4?
We exchanged some positive words. I gave him confidence that he should play his normal game and that I will be there on the wicket with him. And we started.
You attempted a rash stroke initially while at the wicket; was the pressure immense? What did you and Unmukt talk about after that particular over?
There was no scope of talking negative at that moment so Unmukt just told me to play my natural game and if I should feel like hitting, then I should go with full effort.
The winning shots for the both the senior and U19 World Cups were hit by wicket-keepers. MS Dhoni hit a six, you hit a four…how does that make you feel?
(Chuckles) Before the last ball, I was thinking of hitting a six but then I remembered the Pakistan match. Anything could happen, after all cricket is a funny game, and I didn’t want to take a risk and so settled with a boundary. The moment after that couldn’t be described in words.
After this tremendous success, you will likely gain instant stardom and a lot of attention from the media. Do you think that can make things difficult for a youngster like yourself?
I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened and digest these things. I just want to start from the beginning and concentrate on the upcoming season.
Nowadays wicket-keepers are required to necessarily contribute with the bat too. What do you concentrate more on - batting or keeping?
I try and balance both the things. Whenever I am batting, I don’t think of keeping and when I am done with batting I, straight away without wasting time, start keeping drills and all.
Was wicket-keeping a conscious choice that you made, or did it come to you naturally?
I will say it was natural as my grandfather and my father both were wicket-keepers and opening batsmen, so it was in my blood.
How difficult was it to keep against Harmeet Singh?
It was a good ask, because he was bowling slow and the edges were more difficult to catch.
Is there any particular batsman or wicket-keeper that you model yourself after?
I love MS Dhoni’s attitude on and off the field .
After the U19 World Cup, what next? Do you think some of the members from U19 team should be given a chance to play in the senior side?
I think that selectors are more likely to answer this, but I have definitely started working more harder to match the level of senior cricket. And I emphasize more on performance rather than selection.