Future looks bright for the boys who showed great maturity, high skills to win Under-19 World Cup | Cricket News
Despite little age-group cricket in India for the past two seasons due to Covid-19, the India under-19 team notched up a nine-game unbeaten run, clinching two back-to-back tournaments. “It was an outstanding achievement by the boys. Hats off to them for winning two major tournaments – the Under-19 Asia Cup (in UAE) and then the World Cup in span of a month. Considering that we had hardly two-three months’ time to prepare, it’s a great achievement,” India Under-19 chief selector Sridharan Sharath told TOI on Sunday.
The way this bunch conquered an outbreak of Covid-19-six players were infected at one point in the league stage, forcing India to barely find 11 fit players for the games against Ireland and Uganda – is an inspiring tale in itself. Sharath gave credit for keeping the boys motivated in this low phase to batting legend VVS Laxman, who was in the Caribbean in his capacity as the National Cricket Academy head, and the team’s coaches – head coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar and bowling coach Sairaj Bahutule, both former India players.
“Credit to VVS Laxman. His presence itself was a tremendous thing. It gives a huge confidence to the boys. You can’t substitute such kind of an experience. The coaches and team management must be given a lot of credit, too. Collectively, everybody worked well,” summed up Sharath.
The heartening aspect of India’s performance was that the team appeared strong in all facets of the game.
The batting was led by skipper Yash Dhull and his deputy Shaik Rasheed. If Dhull slammed a superb 82 in the opener and then 110 in the semis against Australia, Rasheed slammed half-centuries in the semis and the final. Keeping calm under pressure, Nishant Sindhu took India home with a fabulous, unbeaten half-century in the final. When Dhull was down with the virus, Sindhu led the team well to keep up the momentum. Openers Angkrish Raghuvanshi and Harnoor Singh were consistent in the group stages, though they failed to get going in the last two games.
The boys displayed a maturity level which seemed to be beyond their years. Chasing 190 in the final, they took a slow and steady approach, but hardly looked in danger of losing the match. Rasheed took 84 balls for his 50, and Sindhu and Bawa too didn’t look rushed in their partnership, which helped India tide over a nervous period. In the end, ‘keeper-bat Dinesh Bana, evoking memories of MS Dhoni’s famous six over long-on which sealed the 2011 ODI World Cup for India, finished proceedings in similar fashion.
Bana had earlier blasted a 4-ball 20 in the semis against Australia to help India collect 108 in the last 10 overs. The youngster appears to be a phenomenal talent. “He was the second wicketkeeper for Haryana. However, we asked him to get his ‘keeping pads and gloves for the U-19 Challenger Trophy. He kept very well and few people know that he had smashed 170 off 98 deliveries in one game,” revealed Sharath. That innings included 14 sixes, 10 fours, as 124 of his runs came in boundaries. “He’s a terrific batsman. It just that he got only a few deliveries to show what he’s capable of,” said Sharath.
Indian team celebrates after winning the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Final at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Saturday. (ANI Photo)
Till the final, it were the spinners who were calling the shots in the bowling department. Leading the attack was left-arm spinner Vicky Ostwal who was India’s highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps in the tournament, including match-winning hauls of 5-28 against South Africa in the opener and 3-42 against the Aussies in the semis. However, in the final, it was the pace bowling duo of Raj Bawa (5-31) and Ravi Kumar (434) who demolished England.
The talent reserve seems to be overflowing. “More than the IPL, I want these boys to get into their state teams and do well in the Ranji Trophy. If they play two-three years of good first-class cricket, they’ll have a chance to play at a higher level,” felt Sharath.