Reetinder Singh Sodhi is one of the brightest stars in the Indian cricketing firmament. The six-footer from Patiala has tremendous potential. The sheer determination on his face when he guided India to victory over Sri Lanka in the final of the U-19 World Cup had to be seen. This was a repeat performance of his role in the U-15 World Cup. As a batsman, Reetinder is very compact. He has the knack of finding the gap and possesses a good repertoire of strokes. As a bowler, a steady line and length are his strong points. Reetinder came into the limelight as a useful all-rounder with his unbeaten 152 against South Africa's U-19 team in 1995-96. Playing for the Board President's XI and aged 15 at that time, he produced a flurry of shots against South Africa's quickies. Sodhi, who can be sure of a place on the Indian team in the not-too-distant future, spoke to Suresh Parekh recently. Here are excerpts of the conversation.
How did you feel after winning the U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka?
It was fantastic. We were jubilant. Winning any tournament is important, but the World Cup is special.
What was the secret behind India's great run of success there?
Teamwork. I think we were all very committed. We took one match after another with the same kind of enthusiasm, dedication and the will to play cricket. We really were a united bunch and wanted to win the Cup, which ultimately we did. Our coach, Roger Binny, must get special mention. He guided us very well.
But how did this World Cup turn out for you?
I'm happy with my performance. Actually, we won most of the matches quite convincingly and I wasn't getting enough overs to score runs. But in the final, I got a chance to prove my worth. I am happy that I scored runs and played a useful innings in the final when it mattered most, and guided India to a World Cup victory. I also bowled well, keeping a good line and length.
Were you mentally prepared for the World Cup?
I think I was because I had played quite a few matches before leaving to Sri Lanka. There was no nervousness or lack of confidence. I really enjoyed playing cricket on the island.
You were the Captain of India's U-15 team which won the World Cup in England in 1996 and an important member of the U-19 team. Can you compare these two World Cups?
It is very difficult to make a choice or a comparison. Both the titles were important in themselves. The U-15 World Cup win was achieved under English conditions and on their pitches. Besides, the final was atLord's and the other finalist was Pakistan. So, it was a special match. I remember that when we were chasing the Pakistani total, the pitch was invaded thrice by Pakistani supporters. But that didn't stop us from clinching victory. As far as this World Cup is concerned, I think India was the most complete side and really deserved to win all the matches as we did. But, both are very important tournaments in my life.
You played significant roles in both the finals?
That's true. In the U-15 final, I took 3 wickets for 24 runs and then scored a match winning 82 not out. In this final too, I bowled nicely and scored 34 important runs to guide India to a famous victory. I'm really happy that I played a key role in both these finals.
In the U-19 World Cup, which was the most difficult match for India?
I think the league match against Sri Lanka was the most difficult one. It was an important win. With that win we felt that we could win the Cup as well.
Are you happy with your career so far?
I think I have done reasonably well. In domestic cricket I am doing satisfactorily. Overall, I'm happy. But there is certainly a lot more to be desired.
As an all-rounder, is batting or bowling your strength?
I am an all-rounder...so obviously, bowling, batting and fielding are all very important. Whether I am bowling, batting or fielding I believe in giving a cent-per cent performance.
Robin Singh might play for another couple of years. But will you be looking to fill that slot with your all-round abilities?
Oh yes, I would like to fill that slot. But it is up to the Almighty to help me.
As an all-rounder, what are your plus points?
I have a strong belief in my own ability. I know my limitations very well. So I have to play within my limitations. To be very frank, I don't do anything extra. I just believe in giving 100 per cent on any day.
Did you talk to any senior players in Sri Lanka during the World Cup?
Unfortunately, no. Sanath Jayasuriya and Arjuna Ranatunga came to the ground. I wanted to speak to them, but I just couldn't.
And how was Roger Binny, as a coach?
He played a huge role. He really motivated us. He is a very cool person, so we were under no pressure. He told us to just give 100 percent.
What about your own coach?
I have been coached by my father. My father, Mahesh Inder Singh, played Ranji Trophy matches for quite a few years and he has been a great source of inspiration throughout my life and career.
Finally, what is your immediate goal?
I would like to represent India as quickly as possible. I would also like to serve my country for as long as I can.