The celebrations are on. The boys are having some fun. A couple of the guys come out of the group and face the rest of the squad. Practicing telekinesis, they make a gesture – a fierce double-handed push. In an exaggerated and unified motion, the rest of the squad leaps and falls backwards, as if blown away by a vigorous force. It was just a celebration. However, you couldn’t help but think that it was an accurate representation of India’s dominance in this edition of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup.
India brushed aside all competition with ease. In six games, they hardly broke a sweat. Their road to the finals was as comfortable as this: a 100-run win, followed by two 10-wicket wins, followed by a 131-run win, followed by another victory with a 203-run margin. In the final, they were made to work a little bit harder. They clinched the trophy by 8 wickets with just over 11 overs to spare. It was a record fourth U-19 World Cup title for India.
A lot of credit for this goes to Rahul Dravid, who managed to bring out the best in these talented kids. It was heartening to see the legend finally get his elusive World Cup, albeit as a coach. Even so, in true gentlemanly fashion he modestly redirected all praise. “It’s a bit embarrassing at times because I tend to get a lot of attention and focus, but it is really about the support staff and the quality of people that we’ve had,” said Dravid.
Lots of young guns stamped their authority on this tournament, none more than Shubman Gill, the Man of the Series. Gill displayed shades of Virat Kohli with his wristy drives off spinners and his insatiable appetite for runs. He hammered 372 runs in five innings including three fifties and a ton. His U-19 World Cup average stands at 124. Yes, we typed that right and you read that right. It’d be fair to say he’s one for the future.
India’s potent pace attack of Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Ishan Porel also garnered a lot of attention. Seldom do you see Indian fast bowlers consistently clock 140+ kmph, and they’re still in their teens! Mavi and Nagarkoti were consistent throughout the tournament and picked up 9 wickets each, while Porel sustained a heel injury in the first game, only to come back and run riot against Pakistan in the semi-final with a four-for. Anukul Roy was one of the finds of the World Cup for India and finished as the joint-highest wicket taker, with a tally of 14. The list doesn’t end here, though. Among the individuals who impressed at the U-19 World Cup were three of our own Daredevils – Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra and Abhishek Sharma.
Skipper Prithvi Shaw set the tone with a strokeful 94 in India’s first league game against Australia. He followed that up with another fifty, scoring 57* in a chase of 65 against Papua New Guinea.
Shaw broke many a record on his way to glory. At 18 years and 86 days, he became the youngest captain ever to win the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup. He finished the World Cup with a 100% record as Captain in youth ODIs. With 261 runs to his name, he also holds the record for the most runs scored by an Indian captain in an edition of the U-19 World Cup, going past Unmukt Chand and Virat Kohli in the process. Shaw’s captaincy throughout the World Cup campaign was commendable, which along with his individual performances suggest that he has a calm and mature head on top of those young shoulders.
The Manjot Juggernaut
Until two weeks ago, Manjot Kalra was another up and coming youngster with truckloads of potential. Now, he is a household name. It was a sublime knock on the biggest of stages – a World Cup Final. It was a hundred for the ages, from a young cricketer who has now come of age.
Manjot Kalra too had a great start to the tournament with an 86 in India’s opening game. He went on to score 252 runs at a more-than-impressive average of 84. It wasn’t just a good start for the lad from Delhi; it was a perfect finish as well. Laced with big hits down the ground, fierce cuts and elegant drives, his unbeaten 101 was just the perfect icing on top of the cake.
All-round Contributions ft. Abhishek Sharma
Abhishek Sharma is a genuine all-rounder who bats in the middle order and bowls slow left-arm orthodox. He had a decent U-19 World Cup having contributed with bat and ball. India’s dominant show with the bat in most games meant that his batting wasn’t required as much as his bowling. Yet, he scored a well-compiled fifty against Bangladesh in the quarter-final.
His left-arm orthodox provided the captain exactly what he required, a person to hold one end up through the middle overs with a miserly economy rate. Abhishek Sharma did that and more with his knack of picking up wickets. Six scalps in six games with a best of 2-11 wasn’t a bad return for young Abhishek Sharma.
All in all, three young Daredevils had an excellent World Cup. With their confidence undoubtedly bolstered by their performances on the big stage, it will be interesting to see how these youngsters fare for DD in their debut Vivo IPL season. With Manjot, as with Shaw, it remains to be seen how they will adapt to the Delhi Daredevils set up. Both of them are openers and our squad has a plethora of established openers with the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Jason Roy, Colin Munro bound to take the top two spots in most games. Having said that, judging from the maturity these youngsters have shown, they will take to a new role like a duck to water. Exciting times lie ahead for the Daredevils!