Indian young guns excite nation ahead of Under-19 final against Australia

Indian young guns excite nation ahead of Under-19 final against Australia
Prithvi Shaw is just one of a number of the Under-19 side of whom a lot is expected
Updated 01 February 2018
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Indian young guns excite nation ahead of Under-19 final against Australia

Indian young guns excite nation ahead of Under-19 final against Australia

BANGALORE: Back in the summer of 2009, when the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was being played in South Africa, I met Ray Jennings, who was then coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Jennings, after a brief stint in charge of South Africa’s national side, had taken the Under-19s to the World Cup final in 2008.
They lost to an Indian team led by Virat Kohli. A year on, Kohli and Manish Pandey, his teammate from that junior side, were Jennings’ charges at RCB. There was already talk of how the IPL’s bright lights were distracting young players, and I asked Jennings what approach he took with those under his wings.
“I tell them that nobody cares what they achieved as Under-19s,” he told me. “It’s what they do from here on that will define their careers.”
Kohli is now one of cricket’s biggest stars, probably its finest all-format batsman. Ravindra Jadeja has been one of the main cogs in India’s recent home dominance. Pandey too has played for the white-ball teams.
So many of the others faded away though. The delightfully named Napoleon Einstein has not played a game since 2014, while Ajitesh Argal, man of the match in the 2008 final, is now a tax inspector in Baroda.
And the cautionary tales do not end there. Mohammed Kaif, who led India when they first won the U-19 World Cup in 2000, played his last match for India a couple of days before his 26th birthday. Unmukt Chand, the captain of the last India side to win the U-19 competition in 2012, published an autobiography soon after lifting the trophy. But establishing himself in the Delhi side has proved tough and while he is still only 24 few now talk of him emulating Kohli.
Why then is India so excited about this group of Under-19s, who play Australia in the final at Mount Maunganui on Saturday? It is not just the man on the street hyping the side up either. After the thumping semifinal victory against Pakistan, Sachin Tendulkar tweeted: “Quality play with great dominance in all departments. Splendid display! Good luck for the finals. #INDvsPAK”
VVS Laxman, whose imprint could be found in some of India’s greatest Test wins, added: “What an incredible performance by the Under 19 boys. Mighty impressed with the fielding and not giving Pakistan even an inch. As comprehensive as it gets. Best wishes for the finals #INDvPAK”
The buzz stems from the fact that the leading lights — Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi — all look like they can make the transition from this level to the next. And the man who coaches them, Rahul Dravid — maker of 13,288 Test runs and 10,889 in ODIs — will make sure that they are as well prepared as possible.
In one of his rare tweets during the tournament, he said: “This (U-19 Cricket) is a process of discovery, a process of learning.... learning about cricket and the skills of the game but also a process of discovery and learning of who you are as a person. #ICCU19CWC”

FOUR YOUNG INDIANS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
PRITHVI SHAW: As an 11-year-old, he was featured in a documentary about India’s passion for the game that had the 2011 World Cup as its backdrop. Shaw progressed through the age groups, and emulated Sachin Tendulkar by scoring a century on his first-class debut. As captain of the Under-19s, he started off with a punishing 94 as Australia, Saturday’s opponents, were routed in the group stage. He made 41 in the semifinal and was picked up by Delhi Daredevils in the IPL auction for $187,000.
SHUBMAN GILL: His scores so far in the tournament read 63, 90*, 86 and 102*. In his two first-class games for Punjab, he had scores of 63 and 129. An 18-year-old from a farming background whose family moved to the city so that the son could get the best chance to succeed, it is his astonishing composure under pressure that has caught the eye. It prompted Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) to stump up $281,000 for his services.
SHIVAM MAVI: Rejected by Delhi’s notoriously corrupt selectors at Under-16 level, Mavi, who suffered a serious knee injury at around the same time, fetched $468,000 in the IPL auction. The main reason for KKR to spend that kind of money? A searing spell of three for 45 against Australia, where the speed-gun went up to 146 km/hr. Primarily an inswing bowler, Mavi has a terrific yorker.
KAMLESH NAGARKOTI: The Rajasthan Royals fan also went to the KKR nursery, for a whopping $500,000. Just 18, he has yet to make his first-class debut, but the speed-gun reading of 149 km/hr and figures of three for 29 against Australia had even those in the senior side taking notice. Came back from a shoulder injury sustained after a haul of 10 for 112 in a youth Test in England to make the squad. His combination with Mavi could be central to Indian hopes of a fourth Under-19 crown.