Scoring a century in the final of a World Cup is a dream that most cricketers live for from an early age. For Manjot Kalra, that feeling came early in his life as he stroked a blistering 101* to help India beat Australia in summit clash of the U-19 World Cup last week.

It was a dream come true for Kalra, who was adjudged the Man of the Match in the final, as he guided his across the line with a mature innings. “I was very nervous from the start as it was the final,” said Kalra after arriving in Mumbai on Monday. “As I got my eye in, I started playing a few shots and that gave me some confidence,” he added.

It has been a trying journey for the youngster. His success at the U-19 World Cup came amidst intense pressure as he battled allegations of age fraud last year even as his father was suffering from a heart disease.

The Delhi lad, though, kept his focus on cricket: “There were allegations, but it all came in my favour after I took the medical test. Having never experienced all this, it did affect me, but my family was very supportive and did not let the episode affect me. Thankfully, my performances on the field were not affected,” Kalra said.

Ailing father

It was during this juncture that his father underwent a bypass surgery. “It wasn’t a great time for us, but I am happy that everything sorted itself out. I am fortunate to have played in the World Cup and represented India. Being able to play that knock in the final was just the cherry on top of the cake,” he said.

Kalra said that the camaraderie within the team was the reason for its success in New Zealand. Nearly every member of the team contributed through the tournament. “We were like one big family. All of us got along well together. We supported each other and celebrated each other’s successes,” Kalra said. “All the batsmen clicked and so did our bowlers. All our plans came together,” he added.

Kalra also heaped praise on coach Rahul Dravid for giving each player the independence to play their natural game. “Obviously he told us how to go about building an innings, but he let us play our natural game, but kept reminding us to assess the match situation before trying anything extravagant,” Kalra said.

Kalra now wants to keep his head down and hopes to replicate his effort and score a century the senior team’s win in a World Cup. “I got a chance to do it (score 100 in final) at U-19 level which I will always cherish. Hope is to one day do it for India. If everything goes well, may be I can get that opportunity as well,” Kalra signed off.