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24 days of riveting cricketing action comes to an end on 11 February when India and Australia meet in the final of the U19 World Cup. Defending champions India have shown exceptional form. Barring a close two-wicket win over South Africa in their semi-final, they’ve been the comfortable victors in their remaining contests.
On the other hand, Australia have endured a number of stutters, which have helped the side become battle-ready before the ultimate contest. Eventually, the result will swing in the favour of the team which keeps itself collected during the big final.
Speaking ahead of the mega clash, Saharan and Weibgen were calm and focused on the upcoming challenge.
“We are very excited for the finals. Everyone’s fit and well-prepared, and a good mindset,” Saharan said when speaking of his side’s mindset before the game.
The wicket in Benoni has produced exciting cricket in each of the five contests that have featured at the venue. Each of the matches went down to the last wicket or last over at the venue.
The India captain believed that their semi-final experience would serve them well ahead of the final.
“We’ve seen the wickets. We’ve played there before, and we know quite a bit about it. We’re ready to face all the challenges.”
His counterpart, Weibgen believed that grass had been shaved off the wicket, and it would be interesting to see how it behaves.
“The pitch looks a bit different from what we saw [in the semi-final], they’ve cut some grass off. [It] might play a little different from the other day, so yeah that would be interesting to see.”
Australia’s semi-final was a see-sawing contest against Pakistan that went to the final wicket, wherein an inside edge off Raf MacMillan’s willow beat the short third and raced towards the boundary to give the side a close win.
Weibgen was relieved at crossing the line, “Personally, I didn’t have to do a whole lot but that’s perhaps the best I’ve slept on the whole trip. I was pretty tired after watching that innings. The boys also needed a good sleep to get back, but everyone’s ready to go.”
Saharan and his teammates were seen witnessing the enthralling clash between Australia and Pakistan from the sidelines. It was an attempt at their end to prepare for the upcoming challenge.
“We were watching the game from the sidelines. We wanted to see how the game was panning out, and how competitive it was,” Saharan said.
“We wanted to gauge the kind of challenges that we’d come across. We watched the ending as well in the hotel, it was a nice game with a close finish. But we’ve our plans, and we’ll execute them [in the final].”
While Australia had their fair share of stumbles including a batting collapse against Namibia, a stiff chase against Sri Lanka, and being challenged by the West Indies before overcoming Pakistan by the barest of margins, India had a smooth journey till they were nearly upended by Kwena Maphaka and Tristan Luus in the semi-final.
Weibgen believed that having featured in close games could prove beneficial to his unit, “It’s good that we’ve had a couple of close games.
“The close battles have put us in pressure situations, and we’ve been able to come on the right side of those situations. So I’m sure it’ll help us tomorrow.”
For his part, Saharan banked on the close finish against South Africa, which helped the middle and lower-order batters get acclimatised to pressure.
“We were quite prepared for a close match. It was good that we had a close match. Now our middle and lower order have also faced the pressure of performing in tough situations. These are the lessons we’ll take forward.”
This will be the third meeting of India and Australia in a major ICC tournament final in recent times. Australia were the victors on both the previous occasions, in senior men’s cricket, winning the ICC World Test Championship Final 2023 and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
Weibgen sought to take inspiration from the same, while also backing the process that the side had followed in the tournament.
“We take a lot of courage from the way they’ve played. It’s very inspirational to see them win. But we’ll just try to stick and do what we’ve been doing well, replicate some of the stuff that has worked for us.”
Saharan, on the other hand, was unperturbed at these comparisons and also focussed on his team's process,
“No, we are taking this as any other game. It’s a final, if there was any other side in front of us, we would’ve played in the same fashion."