Tuesday, July 5th, 2022 00:14:51

India bag fifth World Cup Under 19 cricket trophy

By Sri Krishna
Updated: February 14, 2022 7:39 am

February five, 2022 was a historic day for Indian cricket as its Under-19 won the World Cup for the fifth time beating England by four wickets at the Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, West Indies under circumstances which was unfavourable to them as at one stage they were struggling to gather 11 players who could take the field with most of them falling to the deadly Coronavirus.

India who has played in all the fourteen editions of the Cup since its inception in 1988 has figured in seven finals and won five of them which is in itself a record.

India progressed unbeaten through the 2022 tournament, defeating South Africa, Ireland and Uganda in the group stage, then holders Bangladesh in the quarter-final, Australia in the semis and England in the final.

In the last 10 years, India have won 32 of 36 matches in U19 World Cups to build an imposing winning percentage of 88.89, easily the best record of any team.

The victory over England also stretched India’s winning-streak to nine games in U19 ODIs – six in the World Cup and three in the Asia Cup two months ago.

Another distinction for this tournament was that it saw the maximum number of sixes in the fourteen editions of the Cup so far with 338 with South African batsmen heading the list with 52 followed by India with 32.

This  tournament was indeed a good one for batters than previous editions. For only the second time, 20 centuries were recorded in one edition of an U19 Cricket World Cup, though the total was fewer than the 25 hundreds scored at the 2018 tournament in New Zealand.

The BCCI which runs the game in India has decided to give the players a cash prize of Rs 40 lakhs and Rs 25 lakhs to the support staff and which BCCI President and former India captain Saurav Ganguly in a tweet said “is a small token of appreciation but their efforts are beyond value – magnificient stuff.”

It also brought to the fore that  India was the powerhouse of young cricketing talent. And with such a talented pool of players, eight members from the U19 squad have made it to the auction list of the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League. Along with the skipper Yash Dhull, Harnoor Singh, Aneeshwar Gautam, Raj Angad Bawa, Kaushal Tambe, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Vasu Vats and Vicky Ostwal have made the cut.

The Indian captain Yash Dhull from Delhi who has been selected to lead International Cricket Conference (ICC) “Most Valuable Team” of the U19 World Cup is the third Indian captain to score a hundred at ICC U19 World Cup. Dhull’s 110-run inning in the semifinal against Australia not only  earned the team a spot in the final but his name now features on an elite list with Virat Kohli and Unmukt Chand.

Besides his heroics in the World Cup, Dhull has been a top-rated player in the domestic circuit.

The other two players who have made the cut into the ICC team are all rounder Raj Bawa from Chandigarh and left arm orthodox spinner Vicky Ostwal from Maharasthra.

The bowlers played a key role in India’s success as no team reached the 200-run mark against them. No opening batter scored more than 30 against them in the tournament, and the highest opening partnership they conceded was only ten runs. The average partnership for the first wicket against India in this tournament was only 4.16 runs, the lowest for any bowling team in an edition of the Under-19 World Cup.

“We were looking to bat first as well. But there was some moisture so we thought to make use of that. He has a good head on his shoulders (Dhull). It’s a fabulous competition getting this stage to perform, to showcase talent,” said India coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar.

The Indian youngsters have indeed brought glory but what is of concern is that how to nurture these youngsters so that they are able to shape up as the future Indian team.

As one official said that from the team that won the World Cup in 2012 for the second time,  except Hanuma Vihari, most of the players are nowhere among even best domestic players in their own states.

Manjot Kalra who scored a century in the final of the 2018 U19 World Cup which India won could not get a head start as also Kamal Passi who played a few matches for Punjab some seasons ago. Ravikant Singh is nowhere near the system now and four years since his glory days.

They were all once U-19 World Cup winners but have fallen off the radar, which is an issue that the BCCI will have to address.

According to reports, there could be a “19 plus” level added to the pathways structure with the National Cricket Academy (NCA) ensuring that the talented U-19 players who have just crossed the age-group remain firmly in the system and their progress is monitored. A Shaik Rasheed (Andhra), Ravi Kumar (Bengal), Raj Angad Bawa (Chandigarh) or Yash Dhull (Delhi) might make it to the state side right away but many players from the current India line-up will be caught in between the post U-19 phase and Ranji Trophy. There exists an U-25 (previously U-23) state level but too many candidates are queuing for particular slots in those teams also.

“There is a five-tier pathways structure that National Cricket Academy could be looking at in future for developing players for the senior India team. It starts with U-16, followed by U-19, the Emerging (national U-23) and A team. In this there is a plan to add a ’19 plus’ level where all these boys could be integrated,” a senior BCCI official said about the proposed plans to encourage the talent that was on display at the World Cup.

Among all these levels, the BCCI’s U-25 (now known as state A team) is basically a platform given to players, who are unable to make the senior grade. The coaches know that most of the men who are 23-24 and are still not playing first-class cricket regularly might never make the grade, and hence, the bridge between U-19 and first-class cricket becomes doubly important.

Once the new NCA becomes operational with four first-class level grounds inside its premises, the academy can have its own ’19 plus’ teams which can play matches among themselves and their progress can be regularly monitored by the coaches, trainers and physios. If they make the grade and play state A team (U-25) or Ranji Trophy, nothing like it but if they aren’t part of any teams, at least they are in NCA’s radar. It is expected that the BCCI brass (president and secretary) might have discussions with the 10 national selectors (five junior and five senior) along with NCA supremo VVS Laxman and senior national head coach Rahul Dravid to create a blueprint.

 

By Sri Krishna

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