ICC under-19 cricket World Cup: Pinning hopes India’s future go all the way
The ICC under-19 cricket World Cup has produced stars like Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja but there have been players like Unmukt Chand and Reetinder Singh Sodhi who have failed to shine.cricket Updated: Feb 02, 2018 17:18 IST
India take on Australia in the under-19 World Cup final on Saturday with a couple of players having already made a name with stellar performances in the tournament. Batsmen Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill to pace trio Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Ishan Porel are expected to break into the senior ranks in the next few seasons and fulfil their potential.
Not that simple
A glance at the top Indian performers in the under-19 World Cup, shows it’s hardly a smooth ride to the senior ranks. From the victorious 2012 under-19 World Cup side, only Sandeep Sharma has played for India, that too in only two T20Is. From the 2008 World Cup-winning side, there are three — Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja.
Breaking through to the national side requires years of hard work, consistency and perhaps a certain amount of luck. A junior in the early 2000s would not just have had to battle against these factors, but also a lack of vacancy due to the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. No drop in their form meant no tinkering with the line-up. It was then down to performing consistently and waiting for an opening. And that didn’t depend on the player vying to get into the side.
However, Unmukt Chand, who as skipper scored an unbeaten hundred to win India their last under-19 World Cup in 2012, is a classic case of the script going awry. Once touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket, his talent prompted Ian Chappell to say the former Delhi, India A and North Zone captain deserved a Test spot. Currently, Chand isn’t even a regular for Delhi and no Indian Premier League franchise wanted his services.
A few others like Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Saurabh Tiwary failed to live up to the early standards they set. Sodhi did play 18 ODIs, but was far from the talent who was vice-captain of the 2000 U-19 squad.
Making a mark
However, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif and Harbhajan Singh are classic examples of rising through the ranks and making a mark. All were consistent and carved something out of the ordinary.
Yuvraj, besides being a sharp fielder at point, emerged a swashbuckling batsman who could change the course of a match in no time. His 84 against Australia in the 2000 ICC Knockout (later Champions Trophy) was just a start. Kaif was moulded in similar clay. He too was a brilliant fielder, and his batting with Yuvraj against England helped India lift the 2002 Natwest Trophy in dramatic fashion.
Harbhajan’s consistency in picking wickets, and his 32-wicket heroics in the 2001 Test series win over Australia, made him a hero. Sehwag’s explosive batting, and two Test triple tons, made him one of India’s finest batsmen.
It’s not just in cricket that junior players have gone on to excel at the highest level. Cristiano Ronaldo took the world by storm as a 17-year-old and is still setting fresh standards. Others like Freddy Adu, the ‘next Pele’, hops from one club to another in search for a contract.
Another classic case is that of Leander Paes, who despite becoming the junior world No 1 earned most of his accolades as a doubles player. Attrition levels make transition a challenge, and rising above that isn’t always an easy task.
Considering that, while the likes of Shaw, Gill and Nagarkoti might go on to become exceptional talents, it would be premature to assume that would be the case. The young talent are being monitored and trained by some of the best in the business and that gives hope they won’t have a drastic fall.