“Luck also matters a lot” - Nikhil Chopra on why bright U-19 talents fade away

India celebrate a wicket during the 2008 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. Pic: Getty Images
India celebrate a wicket during the 2008 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup. Pic: Getty Images

Former India cricketer Nikhil Chopra reckons that, apart from talent and hard work, luck also is a big factor when it comes to players looking to graduate from U-19 to international cricket.

India’s U-19 players are in the limelight following the team’s recent victory in the World Cup in the West Indies. While India are the most successful side in the competition, having won five titles over the years, very few cricketers have made the transition from U-19 to international level.

Discussing where youngsters lose their way, Chopra said on the Khelneeti podcast:

“Luck also matters a lot. You may be the top run-getter in U-19 but may belong to a state where there is no vacancy in the batting. If you look at the Indian team, there was no place for a wicketkeeper all these years because MS Dhoni was part of the squad. Now, we have Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli at No.3. So these two batting batting slots are more or less fixed.”

The former off-spinner added that it is important for youngsters to wait for their opportunities and not give up. The 48-year-old added:

“Players need to stay motivated somehow and not lose hope. This is where youngsters need proper people around to guide them. Instead of getting disappointed, you need to wait patiently for your chances and be prepared if and when they come along.”

In recent years, the likes of Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw have made their India debuts after tasting success at the U-19 level.

“Seniors keep playing even when they do not have a future” - Saba Karim on clearing path for U-19 cricketers

According to former India keeper Saba Karim, Indian selectors need to ensure that non-performing veteran cricketers at the domestic level are shown the door at the right time.

He explained that this is one way youngsters can be given greater opportunities to make an impact.

The 54-year-old opined:

“Lot of seniors keep playing domestic cricket even when they are past their prime and do not have a future. They are not able to contribute much but still hold their place in the team. Selectors must take a tough call. If such seniors are not giving match-winning performances, they (selectors) should look towards the next generation. Else, youngsters get disheartened over lack of opportunities and their career, in a sense, is finished.”

India’s five U-19 World Cup triumphs have been registered in 2000, 2008, 2012, 2018 and 2022.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar