Siddhesh Veer hit 44 off 27 balls and also took 2 for 34. (File)
Three years ago, Siddhesh Veer posted on facebook: Siddesh=intelligence+ destiny. He was just 15 then, waiting for his board exam results. Cricketing dreams were just budding—he used to train a local academy in Pune just to keep himself preoccupied in his spare time. Three years later, those words couldn't have rung truer. For, he was not included in the first team list for the Under-19 World Cup announced in December. He wasn't expecting a call-up either because he hadn't played for the country since March last year, after failing to follow-up his 81 against Afghanistan U-19 in the quadrangular U-19 series.
Veer, though disappointed at the snubbing, didn't give up his hope. He posted another picture with the caption: Training hard, I believe in destiny. Then as fate had it, all-rounder Divyansh Joshi picked an injury and Veer got a New Year surprise. That day, he posted another picture on Instagram, flashing a victory sign: "Ready for the big stage." Though he hadn't played for India in nearly a year, he was upbeat after his reasonable run in the Cooch Behar Trophy, where he had scored 749 runs at 46.8 in 16 innings.
Though he converted only two of his eight 50-plus totals to hundreds, he was happy because he was batting well. With an impish grin, he sheepishly told a local television channel: “I should have scored more hundreds but I was happy with the way I was batting, just need to be a bit more patient with my shots.” That these runs came at a strike rate of 88 showed his attacking mindset. That these knocks have come at different spots—from opener to no 6—demonstrated his flexibility. It's one of the aspects that might have earned him the recall.
Once fortune winked on him, he ensured that he didn't squander it, making the best use of the practice games and the quadrangular series. His first knock on return was a fluent 71 against the hosts as an opener before he struck an unbeaten 48 off 36 in the final, a similar knock to the one he authored against Sri Lanka in India's World Cup opener on Sunday. His late flourish—44 off 27 balls—was the reason India's total soared to 297, which seemed distant when he walked in after skipper Priyam Garg got out in the 43rd over. Veer's improvisation was classical finisher’s stuff: six runs in his first 10 balls, 25 in his next six and 13 in his next eleven.
He began with an onslaught of Dilshan Madushanka, the highly-rated Sri Lankan left-arm medium pacer. He was smoked for three successive boundaries. The first was a thumping cover drive, the next was a firm drive that the long-on fielder misfielded, the third, though, was a fierce pull shot that perfectly bisected the leg-side gap. Thus he gave India the required momentum at the death, as they plundered 46 runs off four overs. In the next over, he scooped medium-pacer Amshi de Silva over the keeper's head. The ball was shorter than he had anticipated, but he didn't lose his shape and waited for the ball to reach him, and then with a twirl of his wrists, he completed the shot. Three balls later, he slog-swept the medium-pacer, as if he's a spinner, to the grass banks. The deflated Sri Lankans seemingly gave up, and would have been reasonably happy in conceding just one more boundary to him.
But Veer was far from finished. Next up, he tormented them with his off-spin. First, he dismissed the well-set opener Kamil Mishara for 39 before taking out the Amshi, the bowler he had punished. He doesn't possess fancy variations, but bowled with considerable cunning, varying his pace and angle, demonstrating that he has the composure and intelligence to make his fortunate break count.
Brief Scores: India 297 for 4 in 50 ovs: Yashasvi Jaiswal 59, Priyam Garg 56, Dhruv Chand Jurel 52 not out, Siddhesh Veer not out 44; Amshi Oren 1/40) bt Sri Lanka 207 all out in 45.2 ovs Nipun Perera 50, Ravindu Rashantha 49; Akash Singh 2/29, Siddhesh Veer 2/34).