2018 Under-19 World Cup: India's young stars begin march towards greatness
'First step towards greatness' - This is what can be easily said about India’s U-19 World Cup victory on Saturday at Mount Maunganui in New Zealand. In the final, India defeated Australia by eight wickets to clinch the coveted title for a record fourth time.
On the big day, Indian bowlers reduced Australia to a modest 216. Pacers Ishan Porel and Kamlesh Nagarakoti as well as spinners Anukul Roy and Shiva Singh keeping constant pressure on the opposition batsmen throughout their innings.
Indian openers started the chase scoring at brisk pace and reached 71 in 12th over. Though Prithvi Shaw was undone by Will Sutherland, Manjot Kalra continued the momentum in the company of free flowing Shubman Gill. Although Gill fell after forging a partnership of 60, India were comfortably placed at the middle stages of the innings. With Harvik Desai joining in the middle, Manjot kept on playing his shots before reaching the three-figure mark.
Earlier in the tournament, Indian boys began their campaign against Australia. Placed in Group B, they dominated from the word go and defeated the Kangaroos comprehensively by 100 runs in their first league match. The other two league matches against the likes of Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe appeared like a cake walk for the Prithvi Shaw’s boys. Indian colts won both the matches without breaking a sweat.
Having topped the Group B table, Indian juggernaut continued in the knockout phase too. Indian boys trounced Bangladesh by 131 runs in quarter-final to set up a mouthwatering clash against arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-finals. But on the contrary, the match ended as a completely one-sided affair as India handed a massive 203-run drubbing to their rival side.
The overall performance of Indian junior team was similar to the Australian senior team’s performance in the 2003 and 2007 editions of the ICC World Cup. Ricky Ponting's team had dominated every team coming in their way. In similar vein, Prithvi Shaw's side excelled in all the departments and gave no chance to their opponents.
Shubman Gill arrives on the big stage
Skipper Prithvi Shaw lived up to the expectations by leading from the front. He provided flying starts to his team and scored 261 runs in the tournament. But it was Shubman Gill who stole the show by topping the batting charts. The right-hander from Punjab amassed 372 runs and eventually won the Player of the Tournament award. Manjot Kalra, Abhishek Sharma and Harvik Desai also chipped in with useful contributions.
But it was the bowling might which took the cricketing World by surprise. Fast Bowlers Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel utilized the conditions and kept asking tough questions to the opposition batsmen throughout the series. They were ably supported by spinners Shiva Singh, Abhishek Sharma and Anukul Roy. With 14 scalps, the latter emerged as the joint-highest wicket taker.
India were near perfect in snatching difficult catches and inducing run outs through direct hits. By winning the trophy, skipper Shaw has joined the league of Mohammed Kaif, Virat Kohli and Unmukt Chand. With this triumph, he and his boys have taken their first step towards greatness.
The story will be incomplete without giving due credit to head coach Rahul Dravid. Having been at the helm of affairs from past three years, the legendary batsman has contributed tremendously for the junior level cricket in India. Being himself a great of the game, he has instilled the necessary discipline, application, attitude and competitive spirit among his boys.
Dravid laid the process where the boys were given a platform to perform without the fear of failure. Watching his boys miss the trophy by a whisker in the previous edition at Bangladesh two years back, he has ensured that his boys have taken the final step successfully this time around. He took caution when the IPL auctions happened back home during the knockout phase and ensured that the outcome did not hamper the focus of the young stars. Well done boys, it’s now time to take a step towards the big stage.