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Why India is a superpower in Under-19 cricket

A pool of expertise that is each deep and broad, a construction that offers age-group cricketers loads of publicity and robust competitors for spots have performed a function. As has the NCA, which is now trying to equip its trainees mentally for the step up from the junior stage

A pool of expertise that is each deep and broad, a construction that offers age-group cricketers loads of publicity and robust competitors for spots have performed a function. As has the NCA, which is now trying to equip its trainees mentally for the step up from the junior stage

The competitors for the wicketkeeper’s slot in the Indian workforce for the 2000 Under-19 cricket World Cup was stiff. So stiff, a sure Mahendra Singh Dhoni missed out.

It was the third version of the event, which India went on to win, for the primary time. In the 11 editions since, India has been the champion in 4, the most recent triumph coming early this month in Antigua. It has been the runner-up on three events and has contested the final 4 finals. Clearly, India is the superpower in junior cricket.

But its marketing campaign this time round bumped into tough climate when 5 of its gamers, together with captain Yash Dhull and vice-captain Shaik Rasheed, examined constructive for Covid-19 throughout the event. That the Indian workforce overcame this handicap and went on to win the cup is exceptional.

It additionally offers us a clue to the reply of the query: Why is India so good at junior cricket?

If a workforce can address the unavailability of 5 gamers, together with the skipper and his deputy who’re among the many facet’s key batters, it exhibits not simply character and resilience; it additionally exhibits the sheer depth of expertise in the squad, and in the nation.

Coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar is justifiably pleased with the best way the Indian workforce survived the disaster and bounced again. “In all my years as a coach, of various teams, I had never come across a situation like this, when you lose five players — and important ones at that — at one go,” he tells The Hindu. “Yes, sometimes you lose a player or two to injury and that’s normal. But what happened in Antigua was a different experience that taught me something new. Quick decisions had to be taken.”

Kanitkar, a former India batter, reveals that V.V.S. Laxman performed a main function throughout that powerful time in Antigua. The former Test star was with the Indian workforce shortly after taking on as the top of cricket on the National Cricket Academy (NCA).

“After the players tested positive for Covid-19, a lot of things had to be done outside cricket, like all the communication with the ICC and the BCCI and I didn’t have the phone with me as I was not allowed to [as a coach],” says Kanitkar. “Laxman did all that, as even the manager was affected by the virus. He also did a lot of throw-downs for the boys — more than us — though he didn’t have to.”

Kanitkar and Laxman return a good distance. They performed collectively for India Under-19 on a tour of England. “The players of my generation didn’t have the kind of exposure that today’s kids have,” he says. “There wasn’t this much coverage of junior cricket either, those days.”

Things had improved by the point Ajay Ratra gained the tight race for the wicketkeeper’s gloves, forward of Dhoni, for the brand new millennium’s first Under-19 World Cup, held in Sri Lanka. Twenty two years later, he remembers vividly India’s first triumph in cricket’s most necessary event for juniors.

“It means a lot to me that I was part of the Indian team that won the Under-19 World Cup for the first time,” says Ratra, who like Kanitkar took up teaching after taking part in for the senior Indian workforce. “It wasn’t easy at all to make it to the Indian team that year, so I was happy when I was selected.”

Mahendra Rajdev was a a part of that under-19 choice committee. “Our job was tough, as we watched a lot of talented youngsters that season,” he says on the sidelines of the Ranji Trophy match between Kerala and Meghalaya at Rajkot’s Saurashtra Cricket Association Ground, the place he is the curator. “I remember we had a lot of discussions when we decided on the wicketkeeper; apart from Dhoni, we had also considered Pallav Vora.”

“And there was Pradeep Chawla, too,” provides Ratra. “It was a very good Indian team that went to Sri Lanka. We had players like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, who was the captain, Ravneet Ricky, Y. Venugopal Rao and Reetinder Sodhi. I had come across Yuvraj in the Under-16 section as well, as we were in the same zone; he was playing for Punjab and I for Haryana. He was a special talent blessed with great timing and hitting ability.”

Ratra says the workforce was well-coached by Roger Binny. “We fielded the same eleven for all the eight matches in the tournament,” he factors out. “Every player contributed and there were some unforgettable performances like the 58 off 25 balls from Yuvraj in the semifinal against Australia.”

In that Australian facet had been Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, Nathan Hauritz and Ed Cowan. Graeme Smith, Brendon McCullum, Ian Bell, Jacques Rudolph, Marlon Samuels, Danish Kaneria and Albie Morkel additionally featured in that World Cup.

Several of Indian cricket’s huge names too have performed in the Under-19 World Cup over the past couple of a long time. The listing contains Virat Kohli, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Okay.L. Rahul, Irfan Pathan, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Piyush Chawla, Dinesh Karthik, Ishant Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan.

From this yr’s World Cup-winning squad, Dhull, who made two a whole lot on his Ranji Trophy debut, and Raj Bawa, who picked up a wicket along with his first ball in First Class cricket, have already graduated to the senior stage with ease.

Not surprisingly, the Under-19 stars struck it wealthy on the IPL public sale too, with Bawa and Rajvardhan Hangargekar being purchased for ₹2 crore and ₹1.5 crore by Punjab Kings and Chennai Super Kings respectively. Delhi Capitals paid ₹50 lakh for Dhull, whereas Aneeshwar Gautam (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Vicky Ostwal (Capitals) had been snapped up for ₹20 lakh every.

It will probably be fascinating to see how these children progress over the following few years. Not each star on the Under-19 World Cup has gone on to shine on greater phases.

“We have seen quite a few young cricketers failing to replicate their success at the senior level,” says Sujith Somasunder, former India opener who is heading schooling on the NCA. “Take the case of Unmukt Chand, for instance. He led India to victory at the 2012 World Cup. And everyone expected him to lead the senior Indian team, too.”

He didn’t even make the workforce. Just a few months in the past, he retired from Indian cricket, on the age of 28.

“When there are big expectations from others, and from yourself, you are bound to be weighed down by them, when you fail,” says Sujith, who is doing his PhD in sports activities psychology. “It can be painful at any age, but more so when you are in your teens. We at the NCA are going to address the issue and we will prepare our trainees mentally, too.”

The NCA, Kanitkar believes, has performed a main function in India changing into the largest power in junior cricket. “Another reason I feel is that our boys are very dedicated and want to excel,” he says. “The wide pool of talent, which you could find across the country, is a major factor, too.”

The variety of video games, home and worldwide, that an Under-19 participant will get to play is another excuse. The BCCI has constructed a robust construction for age-group cricket in the nation.

And how did the boy who edged out Dhoni fare on the 2000 World Cup? He had the very best variety of dismissals (19) amongst all of the wicketkeepers.

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