Benoni (South Africa), Feb 5: As the India U19 team gets ready for its semifinal clash against South Africa, the focus is on Musheer Khan, who has already had a remarkable ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2024 in South Africa. Musheer is currently the leading run-scorer in the tournament, and with a semifinal against South Africa on Tuesday looming, has a chance to further cement his name alongside other luminaries of Indian cricket who walked the same path. ICC U19 World Cup 2024: Sarfaraz Khan Told Me To Play With All My Heart, Says Musheer Khan.
One of those was Sarfaraz Khan, Musheer’s older brother, who played two editions of this tournament -– in 2014 and 2016 -– and was recently called up to the Indian Test squad for the series against England. Sarfaraz’s journey hasn’t been without its struggles, and in being able to pick the brains of someone who has done this before, Musheer feels privileged. He has learnt what he could while closely observing his brother’s career. His elder sibling is not just a source of inspiration now, but also a confidante.
“The first thing he told me was that there is no bigger pride than playing for India,” Musheer told ICC when asked about his brother’s influence. “He told me to enjoy myself on the field and whenever I get a chance – be it with the bat or ball – you have to pull the team up in any situation and win the game. “He told me to play with all my heart because you are representing the country. I have learnt a lot from Sarfaraz – right from how he bats to how he is always thinking about winning the game for his team, to how he builds his innings.
“Even as he was knocking on the doors of the Indian team, his focus was always on scoring runs and the process without worrying about the result. My focus too is on the process.” Musheer's brother remains a big benchmark, but Musheer’s biggest source of inspiration –- like almost every other cricketer hailing from Mumbai –- is Sachin Tendulkar. That was evident during a standout moment against New Zealand when Musheer executed a remarkable upper-cut, prompting commentators to highlight the striking resemblance to the Little Master's influence. Sachin Tendulkar Showers Praise on Team India After Their Series-Levelling 106-Run Victory Over England in 2nd Test 2024.
As Musheer continues to make a name for himself, he reflects on the beginnings of his journey, one that commenced at a tender age under the watchful eyes of his father. “When I was younger, about 5-6 years old, my father would take me to the ground to play cricket,” he says. “Watching my brother play, I slowly started playing cricket. "There have been so many challenges in my journey so far. Right from childhood, there's a very high level of competition, right from U14, U16 and now at U19." Musheer credits his father for helping him navigate through the tricky patches. "My father always told me to keep working hard,” he says. “The challenges never stop, and you have to accept that as you keep moving ahead.”
Musheer has already played three first-class matches for Mumbai -– something he said was the “turning point in my career so far” -– and believes playing at the highest level in domestic cricket has helped him adapt strongly to the challenges that come with playing in a World Cup. Throughout the conversation, a theme emerges: The 18-year-old is always quick to credit the coaches and underline his commitment to the team’s cause rather than individual feats.
"The support staff has backed us to play fearlessly right from the start and back our natural playing style," he says. “Another thing that has helped us is that we play for each other in the team. If someone has a bad day, we don't let it affect the player or the team. We are playing as a family and it shows on the field.” Despite delivering standout performances in the tournament so far -– including two centuries that have put him atop the run charts -– Musheer says he won’t be happy until the World Cup is won. Out or Not Out? Here's Why Ravi Ashwin Was Denied Tom Hartley's Wicket During IND vs ENG 2nd Test 2024.
“I am happy with my performances, but I won't be satisfied until we win the World Cup,” he says. “As far as being the highest run-getter, I don't really want to think about it. “Since the start of the tournament, it was only about winning the World Cup and that's what we are focussing on. I only want to do well for the team and take the results as they come. “It would give us great happiness to bring the World Cup to India. But we know that it won't come easily and that we still have to work very hard to get our hands on the title.”
As the tournament enters a crucial phase, Musheer’s confidence is unwavering, despite the chance of facing a team that will be buoyed by home support. “There is no nervousness,” he says. “We view the semi-final as just another match, just as we did in the league stages and Super Six. We are not taking extra pressure. “We are just looking to stick to our roles in the team, focusing on the process and the results will come. "It's [about being defending champions] there at the back of our minds, that we have to win the World Cup, but we don't let that get to us. “We are preparing to the best of our abilities. We are taking this as a normal match and trying to give our best.”
It’s Musheer’s immediate dream to win this tournament. But the dreams go beyond that. Typically, he remains grounded, thanks to another piece of advice from his father. “There is a lot to achieve but my father has always told me to work hard and don't think far too much about the future,” he says. “He tells me to stay in the present and focus on the upcoming matches. “When we think too much about the past or the future, we forget to be in the moment. That's what our team is doing too.” Profound words from a scintillating prospect.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 06, 2024 10:43 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).