Analyzing India's Chances at the Under-19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh
Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Manish Pandey and the list goes on and on. The under-19 cricket platform has provided the Indian team with a plethora of exciting cricketers. And this year’s biennial event will be extra special for the boys in blue as they will be mentored and coached by ‘The Wall’ himself, Rahul Dravid. India were due to play Australia in their opening match January 28, but the Australians boycotted the event a month back owing to security problems, and have been replaced by Ireland. The three-time winners (2000, 2008, 2012), India, have been clubbed in Group D alongside another three-time champions Ireland, New Zealand and Nepal.
The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2016 is going to be held in Bangladesh from 27 January to 14 February. The biennial 16-nation tournament features nine Test-playing nations and seven Associate & Affiliate Members - Afghanistan, Canada, Fiji, Namibia, Nepal, Ireland and Scotland. The teams have been divided into four groups of four teams each, with the top two in each advancing to the Super League quarter-finals and the other two qualifying for the Plate Championships.
The Super League will culminate in the Final event in Mirpur on February 14, and the Plate Championship Final in Cox’s Bazar on February 12.
Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan will lead India's 15-man squad to the Under-19 World Cup. Kishan had recently led India to a series win in the Tri-Nation Under-19 Tournament, involving Sri Lanka and England, in the emerald isle nation. Barely two weeks before that, India had also won a Tri-Nation Tournament featuring Bangladesh and Afghanistan, in Kolkata.
In the first warm-up game vs Canada U19, India Under-19 took giant strides. The team came on top with a 372-run win over their North American opponents at the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan No. 4 Ground in Savar on January 23. After posting 485 for 6, the bowlers collaborated to keep Canada to only 113 in 31.1 overs. In the massive win, India ticked all the important boxes before they take on Ireland Under-19 in their tournament opener. The batsmen got some well-needed runs and the six bowlers took all the wickets.
India arrived in Bangladesh with a power-packed batting line-up that includes Sarfaraz Khan, one of India’s brightest young batsmen who plays for Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. The young boy from Mumbai has been praised by his coaches at all levels, and his teammates at RCB like Kohli, Ab de Villiers, and Chris Gayle, which is definitely not a bad lineup of stars to take to hone your skills. Sarfaraz joins Ricky Bhui and Avesh Khan for their second appearance in the biennial premier age-group tournament, having also competed in 2014 in the United Arab Emirates.
Another batsman on whom everyone’s eyes will be is Armaan Jaffer, nephew of former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer. Both Sarfaraz and Armaan have been known in the Mumbai cricketing circles for their swashbuckling innings, like when the stocky Sarfaraz hit 439 in a Harris Shield match and Armaan topped that with scores of 498 and 473 a year later. Both the batsmen have drawn huge praise from legendary players and, undoubtedly, their coach is impressed by them too.
“Ours is a decent side with a lot of promising players,” Dravid said. “The conditions in Bangladesh will be quite similar to what the boys have grown up on in India, so that should be beneficial to the side.”
The squad includes five other batsmen apart from Kishan, Jaffer and Sarfaraz- Washington Sundar, Rishabh Pant, Amandeep Khare, Anmolpreet Singh, and Ricky Bhui. Sundar, only 16 at the moment, had finished as the leading run-scorer of the tri-series in Sri Lanka, with 208 runs from four innings at an average of 52 with three fifties. No other India batsman scored more than 130 runs.
Among the seven bowlers, India has named four pacers - Avesh Khan, Shubham Mavi, Khaleel Ahmed and Rahul Batham. There are three spinners also- left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar and legspinners Zeeshan Ansari and Mahipal Lomror. Khaleel and Dagar had topped the wicket-takers' list with seven wickets each from two matches in the Sri Lanka tri-series.
SQUAD: Ishan Kishan (capt.), Rishabh Pant (vice-capt), Khaleel Ahmed, Zeeshan Ansari, Rahul Batham, Ricky Bhui, Mayank Dagar, Armaan Jaffer, Sarfaraz Khan, Amandeep Khare, Avesh Khan, Mahipal Lomror, Shubham Mavi, Anmolpreet Singh, Washington Sundar.
The news of Rahul Dravid mentoring these young lads would’ve been enough to gee them up for the World Cup. And the coach himself has been quite impressed with the talent at his disposal.
Speaking about the squad Dravid said, "I think we've got a very good balanced side, especially for the conditions. We were looking for different kinds of skill sets. The fast bowlers have been quite exceptional in both the tournaments which has been a really good sign. We've got a couple of good spinners coming through as well and a lot of allrounders who can chip in especially in the spin-bowling department.”
“They have potential and good young talent to perform well. Hopefully, they will grow as players and people and not just look at results. I hope they go on playing and represent the senior team and bring laurels for the country.”
On the coaching experience, Dravid adds, “For me coaching and mentoring at the U-19 level is really helping young people on their journey which I had experienced myself when I was at that age. It gives me a platform to share my experiences, some of the learning I had over 20 years in sport," the legendary batsman said.
"To be able to help lot of young cricketers and fulfilling their dreams and making their journey possibly a little bit easier, it is sometimes a difficult, competitive, tough environment. It is really a fun part to coach a cricket team after I have retired.
Let us hope the stalwart is seen smiling in the background, like he always does, when the young boys in blue lift the trophy on Sunday, February 14 in Mirpur.