Ultimately domestic cricket will turn boys to men
The real learning for India’s U19 cricketers will unfold only during the rigours of India’s domestic circuit. And then there will be the new pressure of attracting the attention of IPL franchises. The truth remains that only a few from the current U19 squad of 15 will go on to fulfil their India dreams.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 07:01 IST
Had they won, there would have been victory parades and felicitations. Instead, India’s Under-19 team—which lost in the final of the junior World Cup to Bangladesh in Potchefstroom—will have to make do with being better placed than they were before in dealing with the pressures of international cricket. Captain Priyam Garg’s boys have shown that they are ready to enter the next stage of development in their respective careers.
Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi were the stand out players for India in the final, with the former striking 88 and the latter picking up four wickets. But once Jaiswal was dismissed in the 40th over of the innings, the remaining batsmen found it hard to press on beyond a team total of 177 runs. And the same could be said about India’s frontline bowlers, who failed to capitalise on the leggie’s breakthroughs.
“The final was Yashasvi and Ravi’s day, it was someone else’s in the previous games. I am happy with the way they fought. I don’t think they could have done anything more required for the team,” says head coach Paras Mhambrey. “They now know how tough cricket is. They got a little bit of a taste of international cricket. These are the things you live for,” he added.
The country’s former players too took notice. “They will be better with this experience,” says Mohammed Kaif, captain of India’s first U19 World Cup triumph in 2000. “They will now know to handle pressure better. Make no mistake, they are a good bunch of players.”
Jaiswal finished as the top scorer, totalling 400 runs in the competition. With a double hundred in the domestic 50-over competition, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and a century in the World Cup semis against Pakistan, the Mumbai lad is fast becoming the player to watch out for from this age-group. Bishnoi too did his blossoming career no harm in South Africa. An unconventional leg-spinner who uses googlies more frequently than the leggies, Bishnoi was the leading wicket-taker with 17 scalps in the competition.
“Everyone knows Jaiswal and Bishnoi are good,” says Kaif. “But there are others like Priyam Garg, for example, who did not get as many opportunities with the bat. Left-arm seamer Akash Singh also has a very nice seam position. Kartik Tyagi swings the ball well. Even those that didn’t shine in the tournament could go on to become good players.”
Kaif stresses on the fact that one doesn’t have to play or do well at the U19 level to become a senior India player. “But for those who do get to play there, there are massive advantages,” he adds. “I remember when I played the Ranji Trophy final against a strong Karnataka with the likes of Javagal Srinath, Sunil Joshi and Rahul Dravid in 1998, I was better equipped to handle the experience because I had just played an U19 World Cup,” says Kaif. “We didn’t win the U19 World Cup in 1998, and ended up winning two years later. But once you have played in the India jersey, you feel that you belong.”
The real learning, however, will unfold only during the rigours of India’s domestic circuit. And then there will be the new pressure of attracting the attention of IPL franchises. The truth remains that only a few from the current U19 squad of 15 will go on to fulfil their India dreams. “First class cricket is tough and they will have to work harder. They will look beyond this, which is the Indian team eventually, and that will be the BCCI’s success. You want to groom them, and give them a platform to perform at the next level,” says Mhambrey.
From India’s World Cup winning squad of 2018, only Shubhman Gill and Prithvi Shaw have go on to play for India. Other top performers like Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi are recovering from injuries. Manjot Kalra, the Man of the Match in that year’s final, can’t even find a place in his state team.
The going will of course get tougher. But the U19 boys will do well to heed by Dravid’s words from a recent interview. “You can’t judge by how many players go on to play for India,” said Dravid. “It’s how quickly you can get them into the first-class scene. Once they get to that level, then it’s up to them. The journey goes forward.”