12 February 2016
Dream come true, gushes Springer
Bangladesh U19 taken care of, Hetmyer’s lads are quietly confident of pulling off a coup against India U19 in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 final
Shamar Springer said that he loved this knock as it came in the semifinal of the tournament and called it a dream come true.
Like anyone else from the Caribbean, Springer takes his dance moves seriously, and when he pulled out one of his steps that he calls as “chest roll” after his unbeaten 88-ball 62 had taken his team to the final of the tournament for the first time since 2004, the relief was palpable.
“It was a great feeling (to hit the winning runs) and even better to be in the World Cup final. It’s a dream come true,” Springer said. “I loved this knock today because it’s in the semifinals, and I always believe in myself. Today, I was a bit nervous at the start, but I just proved myself right.”
Nicknamed ‘ball beater’ by his teammates for his aggressive batting, Springer, who made 106 against Fiji in the league stage, listens to a motivational speech before each game and tells himself, “I am a champion”. It has made him adaptable, a trait he revealed both with bat and ball against Bangladesh.
West Indies was still 109 runs away from its target of 227 when he took strike at the fall of the third wicket in the 20th over.
Soon, it became 147 for 4, Springer himself finding it hard to rotate the strike. He got a lifeline on 15 when Mohammad Saifuddin dropped a caught and bowled chance in the 34th over. That triggered something, as he hit a four and a six in the space of four balls soon after to break the shackles.
Even as Bangladesh, egged by the crowd, kept things tight, Springer guided Michael Frew and Ryan John with intelligence. Especially with the finish line in sight, he asked John to focus only on defence before he himself hit the winning boundary with eight balls to spare.
“When I first went to bat, I just had to get familiar with the conditions. It was spinning a bit and it’s not very normal to bat so many dot balls, but I adjusted today,” he said of his uncharacteristic approach. “I just was continuing to give the captain (Shimron Hetmyer) the strike. Then, he got out and I just took control of everything.”
While Springer was going about his business, the change room was anything but businesslike. “Once I got out, the feeling in the dressing room was bit tense,” Hetmyer said. “We knew we still had Shamar at the crease and had other very good batsmen to come. I think we knew we had the game won.”
What makes Springer’s rise to the fourth position in the tournament batting charts remarkable is that when he joined the preparatory camp, he was seen as a bowling all-rounder. His versatility proved crucial in the semifinal.
Brought into the attack to bowl his medium pacers in the 14th over, Springer, regarded as level-headed by his teammates, stuck to a back-of-the-length channel, produced 35 dot balls, conceded one four and finished with figures of 10-0-36-2.
“The captain was just telling me to hit my lengths hard all the time and not try anything, and just keep things simple,” Springer revealed.
Apart from marshalling his resources with inputs from Keemo Paul and Tevin Imlach, Hetmyer’s second consecutive half-century front-ended the chase.
Like in the 52 against Pakistan in the quarterfinal, Hetmyer’s fluent 60 against Bangladesh was pleasing on the eye as he nullified the effect of the spinners.
“Back home in the Caribbean, the pitches don’t spin, and here the ball spins and we just wanted to take that out of the mind and just play the ball how we see it. If it spins, it spins,” Hetmyer said of his approach. “It was a bit challenging as I had not got any runs in the preliminary games. I just back myself, play some sweep shots and work harder in practice.”
Hetmyer changed the tide in over off Saeed Sarkar, the off-spinner, by hitting two well-timed fours and a six.
“Yes, very much the turning point. I hit some good balls there, just bringing some confidence back to me and the dressing room,” he said of the difference that over made to his approach. “They knew that I was there and just started to get some runs as well.”
While the knock against Pakistan was played in front of a near-empty stadium in Fatullah, the semifinal innings came in front of a vociferous home support of around 15,000 people. Hetmyer, however, played down the hype.
“It wasn’t really playing on my mind because I have played a few games in front of big crowd back home,” he said. “To be honest, it made me comfortable because the noise and the sound, it kind of took me back home. When I play at home, we have a lot of people come and support me and my team as well.”
What is remarkable about West Indies’s qualification to the final is that it had lost the bilateral series against Bangladesh in early January. Hetmyer, however, saw the positive side of it.
“It’s a very big transformation, but I would put it down to the guys not being accustomed to the conditions here in Bangladesh,” he said. “The guys just needed a little time to adjust to the pitches and to the weather, all in one.”
Asked to sum up his feeling after making it to the final, Hetmyer said, “It’s a very, very good feeling for us. Being the second West Indies team to get into the final and possibly, if we play as well as we did today, we’ll win the final as well. It’s a very, very good feeling for us and for the people back home in the West Indies.
“I think we have a very good team here and a very capable set of young men here for the next set of five-ten years to come.”
In the here and now, the focus is on lifting the cup.
“We still have our job to do,” said Springer. “We’ve got one more game and after that, once we come on top, we’ll sure have a party Caribbean style.”
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