World Cup

The Idea Of Under-19!

Rahul Dravid is the most high-profile coach of the India under-19 team; after serving Indian cricket with distinction for more than one and half decades, the 42-year-old, who has been summoned to the middle as an opener, to the No. 6 position, who has kept wickets in 62 one-day internationals and donned the captain’s cap in 104 internationals, has not lost time in giving back to the game in a most meaningful way.

After a brief stint as a television commentator, Dravid has chosen to work with the India under-19 team that has won the ICC under-19 World Cup three times, in as much as Australia has, from 1988.

Legends like Allan Border and Greg Chappell have been associated with the Australian under-19 team as coach and national talent hunt manager and the India juniors should thank their stars that a most capable man in Dravid has decided to be part and parcel of their development process.

Clearly the first group of beneficiaries would be the gifted youth who recently won the tri-series in Kolkata featuring Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the 18-member team selected for the tri-series in Sri Lanka with the England under-19 team. The sterner Test would come when the 2016 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup would be staged in Bangladesh from January 22 to February 14.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the very “idea of under-19” cricket as a valid benchmark acquired importance when the Indian under-19 team won one of ICC’s signature events in Sri Lanka in 2000 under the captaincy of Mohammad Kaif and when the callow youth in Yuvraj Singh was declared the man-of-the-tournament.

Revived after a ten year gap (the first was held in 1988), England won the 1998 competition, and India’s maiden win in 2000 spurred the junior ranks in the country to impress in a number of BCCI’s under-19 tournaments, notably the multi-day Cooch Behar tournament and also the Vinoo Mankad limited over zonal league, knock-out and also the inter-zonal tournament.

Perhaps it was the former India coach John Wright, who hastened a budding cricketer’s selection. Yuvraj cut his teeth in the 2000 ICC Champions Trophy and his aggressive 84 against Australia brought him to the centre stage.

Kaif made the cut in 2002 and along with Yuvraj starred in India’s memorable tri-series win in England. Some of the other India under-19 successful players who have gone to win the senior national selection committee’s nod have been Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli. Pujara and Jadeja’s long streak of success in the Ranji Trophy also helped their cause.

The bigger names who went through the ICC Under-19 World Cup route are Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh (under-19 World Cup in South Africa, 1998).

In all twenty odd juniors who played in the ICC event have either made their mark in the Indian team or are looking to make the breakthrough. They are Yuvraj Singh, Mohd. Kaif, Ajay Ratra (2000), Parthiv Patel, Stuart Binny, Irfan Pathan (2002), Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ambati Rayudu (2004), Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Pujara, Jadeja (2006), Kohli (2008), K. L. Rahul, Sandeep Sharma, Jaydev Unadkat (2010), Unmukt Chand and Baba Aparajith (2012), Akhil Herwadkar, Sarfaraz Khan, Sanju Samson, Kuldeep Yadav, Shreyas Iyer and Vijay Zol (2014).

The last one and half decade has seen a clear shift towards junior cricket with the BCCI affiliated associations spending time and energy to develop junior squads; the players on their part believe that only spectacular performances would help them to leapfrog into national limelight and catch the attention of the franchise owners for selection in the IPL squad.

And, if one looks at the current team chosen for the tri-series in Sri Lanka, there’s not a single player from the West Zone teams in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Saurashtra and Baroda and also from Karnataka which has won back-to-back Ranji Trophy titles. The players from North, East and Central zones have become more ambitious. Sarfaraz Khan, has been raised as a cricketer in Mumbai though.

Former India seamer Abey Kuruvilla who was the chairman of the BCCI’s junior national committee for four years from 2009 and selected India Under-19 teams for two World Cups says: “The Ranji Trophy is an important tournament. Most 18 or 19-year-old players are ready to play first-class cricket. We look for players with potential to play for their State and India. About 20 per cent of the under-19 players make it to the top level. A promising under-19 player may be picked by weaker teams, but not necessarily by strong teams like Mumbai. I think Shreyas Iyer is ready to play for India. After coming out of the under-19 World Cup last year, he was in great nick for Mumbai and he’s been in form this year as well. He’s a very good batsman. The current team will have everything to gain from Dravid.”

Kuruvilla also endorsed the work done by Bharat Arun who was with the India under-19 team for a few years and R. Sridhar, the fielding coach.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 5:29:35 PM |

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