India U19 to face Afghanistan as preparations for U19 World Cup begins
With an eye on the upcoming Under-19 World Cup in South Africa next year, India’s cricket colts begin their preparations and squad tune-ups in a five-match ODI series against Afghanistan’s youngsters, starting here on Friday. Indian cricket takes the fortunes of its junior team very seriously, as suggested by the team’s success at Under-19 World Cups. India U19 have won a third of the 12 U19 World Cups played so far, the most successful country at that age level with one trophy more than Australia and two more than Pakistan.
Ever since Mohammad Kaif delivered India its first U19 World Cup back in the year 2000, there has been a conscious effort by the Indian cricket board to give the most talented individuals an immediate chance in the senior teams. Many of the current Test stars, from captain Virat Kohli to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, went on to make full use of that opportunity.
So who will be Indian cricket’s next blue-eyed teen? Mumbai’s Yashasvi Jaiswal has already made heads turn with his run in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last month. But India’s captain for the upcoming series, Priyam Garg, feels each of the 14 players in the squad can make a splash, which in turn will help them to get selected for next year’s Under-19 World Cup, and then hopefully to catch the eye of the national selectors.
“I have told the boys to play up to their potential as the World Cup team is about to be announced soon,” said Garg on Thursday. The World Cup will be played from January 17 to February 9 in South Africa in 2020, where India find themselves in Group A alongside New Zealand, Sri Lanka and debutants Japan.
The focus from Friday onwards, however, will be on Afghanistan, the ‘home side’ for this series (it is being hosted by the Afghanistan Cricket Board at their adopted home ground). “Playing on home turf as tourists sounds quite interesting,” said Garg. “But we are committed to a good showing in the series as the World Cup is around the corner and individual performances will matter a lot.”
By that measure, Garg will be happy with his run of form -- having struck three half centuries and a century in his last 10 matches since August this year. The captain will celebrate his 19th birthday during the final match of the Afghanistan series.
For the record, India have won each of the three games played against Afghanistan at this level. But Garg insists that past records, and the result of the upcoming series shouldn’t matter in what is a preparatory series for the World Cup. “I believe in consistency and if we are consistent enough success will automatically follow,” said Garg.
India: Priyam Garg (captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Arjun Azad, Shashwat Rawat, Kumar Kushagra (w-k), Divyansh Joshi, Manav Sutar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Atharva Ankolekar, Vidyadhar Patil, CTL Rakshan, and Kruthik Krishna (w-k).
Afghanistan: Farhan Zakhil (captain), Sediq Atal, Rahmanullah Zadran, Islam Zazai, Ishaq Mohammadi, Noor Ahmad, Shafi, Jamshid, Abdul Rahman, Abid Tani, Fazal Haq, Imran Mir, Arif Khan, Asif Musazai and Abid Mohammadi.