‘He has Been Fascinated by Jadeja’s Body Language, Intent’: India U19 Star Saumy Pandey’s Childhood Coach Opens up on Spinner’s Journey

Team India U19 left-arm spinner Saumy Pandey has made headlines at the ongoing ICC U19 World Cup with his crafty spin bowling that has bamboozled opposition batters in India’s brilliant run yet again at the age category tournament.

Pandey’s childhood coach Aril Anthony opened up on the spinner’s journey from the youth ranks and his reverence for veteran Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, whom the young spinner has taken after.

The youngster from MP has been inspired by Jadeja’s work on the cricket field and Anthony revealed that Pandey strived to emulate his idol.

“Jadeja has been his inspiration. He has been fascinated by Jadeja’s body language and fielding intent,” Pandey’s childhood coach Anthony said.

“Initially, when he started playing cricket at age 7 or 8, he was physically very weak. He was advised by doctors to do some physical activity to boost his immunity,” Anthony added.

“His father told me that he had a huge interest in cricket since childhood and was able to hold the bat at the age of three or four.”

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Anthony expressed that Pandey, the son of two government teachers, was also an excellent student who aced his higher secondary education qualification exams.

“He was a sharp kid. Even in academics, he scored around 93 per cent in Higher Secondary. His parents wanted him to be an engineer or a doctor but were left spellbound after seeing him bowl under my guidance,” Anthony said.

“He has a knack for grasping things quickly and implementing them well, which is what you are currently witnessing at the World Cup,” said the coach.

The coach also said that Pandey aspired to be an all-rounder, taking after Jadeja, yet again, but his spin stood out.

“He wanted to become an all-rounder and was very much interested in batting as well. However, the skill that impressed me the most was his bowling, and I advised him to focus on his bowling. He started as a spinner; he was never into fast bowling,” added Anthony.

Pandey also finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in district-level U16 and U19 tournaments besides bagging 135 wickets in the last three years at the junior level.

Pandey also emerged as the second-highest wicket-taker in the Cooch Behar Trophy 2022-23 with  23 wickets in nine innings at an average of 15.17.

Coach Anthony also cautioned the youngster not to get carried away in the dream of an IPL contract and suggested that he take things one at a time.

“Currently, he is focused on white-ball cricket, and I have advised him to focus only on one-day cricket for now. He has shared his dream of playing in the IPL, but I have told him not to think about it now,” the coach revealed.

“Suppose he gets picked by an IPL team now and is hammered for sixes aplenty, it could affect his confidence. So, he should progress step by step, starting with India U19, followed by the Ranji Trophy, and then thinking about Team India and the IPL,” he explained.

“He has started getting IPL-related calls. It will depend on how he fares in the next domestic season. If he fares well and confidently tells me about going to the IPL, I will give him the go-ahead. But I can’t predict if there will be a bidding war for him, which will depend on his domestic performance,” Anthony said.

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Pandey, the vice-captain of the U19 World Cup team, has also done a fantastic job in getting the best out of his teammates, and Anthony expressed that the key to becoming a good leader was getting his teammates to open up in their own manner.

“I told him that during team meetings, he has to talk to every player and get to know more about them,” the coach said.

“Some players don’t participate in team meetings, and he has to deal with them first. In the World Cup, while he has displayed aggression, he likes to work with the team.”

Anthony also opined that making the senior national team is one of the toughest nuts to crack and that luck also played a part besides one’s performance.

“There are a lot of players in contention for Team India berths, and not all are lucky enough. While Pandey would need to work hard, sometimes luck also is a factor.”

“India currently has three senior teams, and all the players in it have made an impact. So, he would not only get competition from his state players but cricketers from across India,” he concluded.

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