Just a couple of hours with Sachin Tendulkar changed the game for Ibrahim Zadran. The 21-year-old got an opportunity to learn the ropes from the former India captain on the eve of Afghanistan’s World Cup fixture against Australia.
And, at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, he put that advice into practice with an unbeaten 129 - becoming the first Afghanistan batter to score a century in the tournament.
It was an innings of grit and determination. And, the Khost-born batter, who has already scored 361 runs in the tournament, at an average of 51.57, admitted that he wanted to make his presence felt at the iconic venue - which is also the ‘home ground’ of Tendulkar.
“He (Tendulkar) shared a lot of experience. He told me that when you bat, just feel that sound. It was a big thing for me. He told me to know about the gaps and how to make the most of it and also how to deal with the situation when there were no boundaries,” Zadran said after the game.
Though in the end, Glenn Maxwell stole Afghanistan’s thunder and guided Australia to an iconic three-wicket win, Zadran was happy to have executed his plans well. “He (Tendulkar) shared all his experience, and I applied those learnings while batting today. Whenever you hear things from Sachin Tendulkar, the god of cricket, you get motivated a lot. I thought I will do it all for my country,” he said.
His innings was not a fast-paced one, and he took his time to reach the century. But he looked at ease while playing against Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc and batted through the innings.
“I wanted support from the other end, but we did not create any partnerships,” he said, about his team failing to breach the 300-run mark. “But I thought they wanted to get me out, and I did not want to give away my wicket. So, I decided to play my natural game and score a century for my country…”
As he batted, spectators chanted his name, and a few Afghan nationals fluttered the flag to cheer for the team. “We have been playing so well and have been getting lots of support from Indian fans as well. People from Afghanistan have come to support us, but the kind of support we get from the Indian fans gives us a lot of support and energy,” Zadran said. “I was feeling as if I was playing at home. We are very thankful to the people of India for their support…”
Though it squandered a chance to defeat Australia, despite putting it on the mat at one stage, Afghanistan hopes to end its campaign on a high when it meets South Africa in Ahmedabad on Friday.
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