When the Indian U-19 team enters the Bay Oval Ground in New Zealand on Saturday, it will be eyeing a record fourth title at the level, something that its opposition, the Australian team, will also be aiming for.
The likes of skipper Prithvi Shaw, his deputy Shubman Gill, pacer Kamlesh Nagarkoti and all-rounder Shivam Mavi have all managed to obtain reasonable contracts with various teams in the recently concluded IPL auction, clearly showing that the future is really bright for all these young cricketers.
The U-19 squad is usually the stepping stone for youngsters like these before they enter the senior team. Over the past 20 years, several Indian cricketers, after having a successful stint at this level, have gone on to have a long and successful career for the national team, and, considering the way the current squad is performing, it won't be long before a few new names are added to this list.
One of the two main stars of the victorious U-19 squad from the 2000 World Cup along with skipper Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj Singh has had an illustrious career at the senior level. An impressive showing in the World Cup, scoring 203 runs at a strike rate of over 103 coupled with 12 wickets at 11.50 in 8 matches, saw him chosen as the Player of the Tournament, which was enough to catch the eyes of the selectors.
Making his debut as a 19-year-old in the 2000 Champions Trophy, the southpaw became a regular member of the Indian team under Sourav Ganguly.
An exceptional fielder in the cover point region and a reliable middle-order batsman, Yuvraj's career has seen both highs and lows. His all round performance in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup victory for India was followed by a long battle with lung cancer that threatened to end his career. Although his subsequent returns to the national side have been short-lived, his 17-year long career, in which he represented India for over 400 matches, is a specimen of how the best players perform at every level of the sport.
Shikhar Dhawan, along with Robin Uthappa, was the backbone of India's U-19 squad in 2004, which was led by Ambati Rayudu. He was instrumental in taking India to the semifinals of the tournament, leading the scoring charts with 505 runs in 7 matches at a whopping average of 84.16, which included a score of 155* against Scotland in the group stage. He was awarded the Man of the Tournament as well.
Although Uthappa made it to the Indian team soon, Dhawan had to take the long road before finally making an impact at the international level.
Making his ODI debut in 2010, Dhawan faced an international exile for three more years before making his Test debut in 2013 and boy, what a debut that was! Ever since that lightning 187 against Australia, he has become a permanent member of India across all formats.
Famous for his explosive style of play, the swashbuckling opener was named the Player of the Series in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013. His form has been a little inconsistent, but when on song, Gabbar is a force to be reckoned with.
Before he was smashing bowlers out of the park, before he was scoring ODI double hundreds for fun, Rohit Sharma was a young middle order batsman with a lot of promise.
Playing alongside the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was the tournament's highest run scorer, and Piyush Chawla in the 2006 U-19 World Cup, the then middle-order batsman played 6 matches, scoring 205 runs at an average of 41. Rated highly among his peers, Rohit soon made the big jump and was a part of the senior team in a year.
However, inconsistent performances hampered his early career, and despite a lot of talent, he was constantly in and out of the Indian team. Once he was promoted up the order, he matured as a batsman and since 2013 i.e. the year he started playing as an opener in limited overs cricket, Rohit has been the best ODI batsman in the world.
A member of the U-19 squad that won the World Cup in 2008, Ravindra Jadeja is one of few players to have been part of two U-19 squads. In 2008, though, he was instrumental in India's triumph, as he bagged 10 wickets in 6 matches at an economy of 3.14, ending up as India's highest wicket-taker. His performance eventually earned him a contract with the Rajasthan Royals in the Inaugural IPL in 2008.
Less than a year later, he was representing India in both limited-overs formats and became a regular member of the team courtesy his aggressive batting lower down the order and left arm orthodox bowling.
Considered a limited-overs specialist early on in his career, Jadeja made a brilliant transition to the longest format of the game. Having held the top spot in the bowling rankings in both Tests and ODIs, Jadeja is now an indispensable part of the Indian lineup in Test cricket.
The captain of the 2008 U-19 World Cup winning squad as well as the current captain of the Indian national team, Virat Kohli's international career has been nothing short of exceptional. Leading from the front as he always does, Kohli was India's second highest, and the tournament's third highest run scorer, notching up 235 runs at a strike rate of over 94 and an average of 47. His performances and his captaincy skills were so exceptional that he was contracted by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Inaugural IPL.
Making his international debut just months after the World Cup, Kohli's career has been on an upward spiral ever since. His records in the limited-overs format are enough to confirm that he has been the best player in the world in the past 10 years.
Once considered a limited-overs specialist, the classy batsman's Test career took a turn for the better when he was made the captain of the national side in 2015 and, as of now, he stands as the only player in the world with an average of over 50 in each of the formats.