Smit Patel. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Smit Patel. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

U-19 Cricket World Cup | Young, hungry, and biding their time

As the new India team gets ready for the U-19 World Cup, we take stock of the players from the victorious 2012 team

The 10th International Cricket Council (ICC) U-19 Cricket World Cup, a tournament that provides a great stage for young talent to be noticed, starts on Friday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). India has won three under-19 (U-19) world cups, and names such as Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina have shone through them. The last edition of the tournament, held in August 2012 in Australia, was won by the “Boys in Blue" as well.

As the new pool of Indian U-19 talent prepares to defend the world title, we look back at the names associated with the 2012 win and track their progress.

Baba Aparajith

Baba Aparajith. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images
Baba Aparajith. Photo: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Smit Patel

The wicketkeeper from Gujarat was the second highest run-scorer in that 2012 tournament. It led to his elevation in the domestic circles when he made his Ranji Trophy debut that season for his state side. He played 13 first-class games, scoring 510 runs in eight matches (at an average of 36.42, one 100 and four 50s included) in his debut season. This season, his second, has not been fruitful, with only 153 runs in five matches and his batting average dipping below the 20-run mark.

Sandeep Sharma

Sandeep Sharma. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Sandeep Sharma. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

The others

Then there are those who made a mark at the 2012 World Cup yet have been waiting for their chance in the domestic wilderness. Ravikant Singh (12 wickets in five matches) and Kamal Passi (10 wickets in five matches) are still on the back-burner for Bengal and Punjab, respectively.

“While it surely isn’t a parameter for performance, at best the U-19 World Cup is a platform for these young guys to hit the limelight," says Vijay Dahiya, former Indian cricketer and now Kolkata Knight Riders’ assistant coach. “It is better than no opportunity coming their way. Earlier, you had only the Ranji Trophy to make a mark, and you kept waiting for that one chance to come your way."

At times, young players get a chance at the Ranji level first, and then go on to play at the U-19 stage, like Harmeet Singh (Ranji debut in 2009 for Mumbai), Hanuma Vihari (Ranji debut in 2010 for Hyderabad) and Vikas Mishra (Ranji debut for Delhi in 2009), who were all later part of the 2012 World Cup squad.

It brings about the next step, IPL riches and yet another platform. Harmeet was picked up by Rajasthan Royals, while Vihari played a stellar role in Sunrisers Hyderabad’s campaign last season. Mishra is part of the Delhi Daredevils’ set-up and has spent time with their spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, the former Pakistan leg-spinner .

Sanju Samson. Photo: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times

Samson’s case is the most illustrious one, a sort of fairy tale at such a junior level. While he has been getting attention for his runs scored in the domestic circuit for Kerala (530 runs in six matches at 58.88 in the 2013-14 season; 911 runs in 13 matches at an average of 43.48 since 2011-12), he grabbed eyeballs playing for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. Given their youth-first policy, the franchise retained him this year ahead of the player auctions, along with the likes of Shane Watson, James Faulkner and Ajinkya Rahane, a bold move given how the IPL’s focus is almost always on star players.

“At this age, these players have nothing to lose. What Zol and Samson have done is that they have managed to gain a reputation, even though scoring 500-odd runs in a Ranji season is not an exceptional performance," says Dahiya. “But looking at the bigger picture, they have set themselves up very well. When the IPL teams go looking for such young talent, these players have everything to gain—confidence in their abilities, part of being a professional set-up and know-how of different formats. The franchises’ faith, and money, represents a significant investment at this stage."

Chetan Narula is the author of Skipper: A Definitive Account of India’s Greatest Captains.

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