The U-19 World Cup sets the stage for the younger players in each cricketing nation to make an early mark on the international stage, which can then fast-forward his entry into the senior team.
Over the years, we have witnessed players like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Chris Gayle, Graeme Smith, Alastair Cook, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli amongst others rise up the ranks after their performances in the tournament were heralded and noticed.
With India winning the 12th edition of the event recently, we have a look at all the Players of the Tournament ever since the trophy was introduced in 2000.
The 1998 and the 1998 editions did not have the Man of the Series award.
#1 2000- Yuvraj Singh, India
An event that changed the dynamics of the Indian cricketing set-up, the third edition of the U-19 World Cup was held in Sri Lanka. Under the captaincy of Mohammad Kaif, the young side set foot on the Lankan shores and mesmerised one and all with their all-around skills.
Comprising of players like Venugopal Rao, Anup Dave and Ravneet Ricky, the Indian team started in right earnest, ending the group stages without incurring a loss. They faced Australia in the semi-finals and hosts Sri Lanka in the Finals, but both games hardly tested the young colts, as India won their first U-19 trophy.
Yuvraj Singh, for an all-around performance, was adjudged as the player of the tournament and soon after, both he and Kaif represented India for the better half of the new decade.
#2 2002- Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Captain in the 2002 U-19 World Cup donned all the possible hats that there is to don on a cricket field in the event.
Not only did he astutely lead the team, he also pitched in with an all-around performance for the side, picking up 12 wickets whilst scoring 250 runs. In between his bowling stints, he would keep the wickets as well and rightfully earned the Man of the Tournament award for his varied skills.
Taibu turned out for Zimbabwe in both Tests and ODIs in 2001 and finished his career aged just 29.
#3 2004- Shikhar Dhawan, India
Possibly the greatest U-19 event that has been hosted to date – one that saw a sold-out stadium even in a game between Zimbabwe and Canada – ended on a high note for India’s Shikhar Dhawan, who set the record books ticking in the tournament. He scored three centuries and a solitary fifty in the games that he played, ending the tournament with a whopping 505 runs, which is a record that stands to date.
He scored at an average of 84.16 to rightfully earn the Player of the Tournament award. Recently, Dhawan has been making waves in the coloured clothing for the national side and became the first Indian to score a hundred in his hundredth ODI game.
#4 2006- Cheteshwar Pujara, India
The tournament that was held in Sri Lanka ended with a mouth-watering summit clash between India and Pakistan. When Pakistan was shot out for 109, it was highly anticipated that the Indian team would race ahead to their second title triumph. However, an inspiration bowling display by the Men in Green saw India reduced to 9/6 in the first few overs, eventually succumbing to just 71.
The man responsible for guiding India thus far, Cheteshwar Pujara, was the Player of the Series, scoring 349 runs in 6 innings, with three fifties and a hundred, at a mind-bowling average of 117. In the quarter-finals against West Indies, he scored 97 and in the semis, romped home with an unbeaten 129 against England. However, the picture was mighty clear on the wall after he fell for a duck in the Finals.
#5 2008- Tim Southee, New Zealand
It is very rare that a player who has turned out for his senior national team represents the country in the U-19 level as well. Tim Southee first represented New Zealand in the U-19 World Cup in 2006, where he picked up 5 wickets at an average of 38.8. However, due to his impressive form in the domestic circuit, he was picked up by the Black Caps in 2008, just months before he turned out in his second U-19 World Cup campaign.
Though the event is famed for India’s historic win and the rise of Virat Kohli, it was a stepping stone for Southee as well. He picked up 17 wickets throughout the tournament, including figures of 5 for 11 in New Zealand’s first match against Zimbabwe. He averaged just 6.64 at an economy of 2.52 runs per over and in a team that also comprised of Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Trent Boult and Corey Anderson, Southee emerged as the player with the brightest future.
He made his debut for the Kiwis in Tests a month after the event.
#6 2010- Dominic Hendricks, South Africa
South Africa’s dismal records in the ICC events continued in this tournament as well, with the team from the Rainbow Nation finishing fifth, after defeating India in the 5th place play-off. The only silver lining, however, was the form of Dominic Hendricks, who finished as the highest run-getter in the tournament. He scored 391 runs in 6 games, at an average of almost 98, with three half-centuries and an unbeaten 107.
However, he was unable to break into the national team and has been representing Gauteng since then in the domestic field.
#7 2012- Will Bosisto, Australia
After Unmukt Chand guided the Indian U-19 team to their third title after scoring a crucial hundred in the Finals against Australia, it was widely anticipated that the young cricketer would replicate the feats of Virat Kohli and become the second U-19 Captain from Delhi to make it large in the international circuit. However, he soon faded away into the oblivion.
His Finals’ counterpart Will Bosisto too faced a similar experience, after bagging the Man of the Tournament in the event. With 276 runs, the West Australian had the highest batting average in the multi-national tournament, but he too, like Chand, was unable to make a mark in the national set-up.
He has represented WA in 14 FC and List A games and is still hoping to make the international cut.
#8 2014- Aiden Markram, South Africa
Aiden Markram will always go down as the first South African to get home a World Cup trophy, albeit at the junior level. Markram’s South Africa, which boasted of players like Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo, comprehensively defeated their rivals to claim their first U-19 title.
The youngster was a revelation for the side, scoring 370 runs in the event at an average of 123.33, including two centuries and a half-century. His unbeaten knock of 66 in the Finals against Pakistan helped the team chase down the target of 132 with six wickets to spare.
He soon made his debut for the Proteas and since then has played 5 Tests and 5 One Day games, with two hundreds in the longest format of the game.
Currently, he was asked been asked to lead the South African side in the 6-match ODI series against India, due to an injury sustained by regular Captain Faf du Plessis.
#9 2016- Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Bangladesh
The young Bangladeshi was asked to lead the junior side in the U-19 World Cup in 2016, which was held in Bangladesh. Not only did he impress with his astute leadership skills, wherein he led his team to the third position in the tournament, he also pitched in with a commendable all-around performance.
In 6 games, he scored 242 runs in 6 matches and picked up 12 wickets, which was a much better performance from 2014, in which he had just scored 19 runs in 6 games and taken 7 wickets. He made his Test debut the very same year against England and in the 9 Tests that he has scored so far, he has picked up 43 scalps, at an average of just over 31.
#10 2018- Shubman Gill, India
With 372 runs in 5 innings in the 2018 U-19 World Cup, Shubman Gill was India’s go-to player in almost every game that India played. With three fifties and a hundred in the tourney, the player from Punjab emerged as a talent to watch out for, with the ICC even naming him as the rising legend of the Indian squad.
With cover rives that reminded one and all of the Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Gill has set himself on the stage from where the future looks a fine one indeed. In the Indian Premier League, he will turn out for Kolkata Knight Riders and one would hope that he can continue his brilliant form in the T20 league as well.