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SANDIPAN BANERJEE | 9 DECEMBER, 2017

Cricketers with First-Class Experience will be India’s Biggest Asset in Under-19 World Cup

Sandipan Banerjee’s review of the Indian Under-19 squad


The Indian junior selection committee has opted for an immensely talented squad for the upcoming edition of Under-19 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in New Zealand in January-February next year. Most importantly, six out of 15 members of the team have First-Class experience and this senior level exposed players will provide India, the three-time former champion and the runner-up in the previous edition, a significant edge over its competitors.

The most renowned face of this team is the 18-year old batting sensation from Mumbai, Prithvi Shaw, who has five centuries and three fifties in eight First-Class matches, including tons on both Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy debut. In this ongoing 2017-18 Ranji season, the right-hander averages 57.88 and he is Mumbai’s second highest run scorer in the tournament so far.

However, along with Shaw, the other cricketers with top-level exposure are; Punjab's Shubman Gill and Abhishek Sharma, Haryana's Himanshu Rana, Bengal’s Ishan Porel, and Assam's Riyan Parag. Amongst them, someone like Rana, who led the team in the Youth Asia Cup recently, has been playing senior level cricket for a couple of seasons now.

The right-hand top-order batsman made his First-Class debut back in 2014-15 season, at the age of 16 and currently features in all three formats for his state side. In New Zealand, Rana is going to play an important role in the batting department along with Gill, who has been named the vice-captain of this India Under-19 team. He featured in two Ranji matches this season and notched up 301 runs in four innings, including a ton against Services and a half-century against a high-class Bengal bowling attack. In India’s youth ODI series in England this year, he was the top scorer, averaging 92.66. Later in the youth Challenger series, the youngster once again put up an impressive show.

His state teammate Abhishek, is an all-rounder. He bats in the middle-order and bowls left-arm spin and has 202 runs and six scalps in four First-Class matches. Whereas medium-pacer Porel and top-order batter Parag have also shown sparks during their domestic exposures.

Thus, with five of the top six batsmen having senior level experience, it seems batting is going to be the strength of this India Under-19 team. In the seaming wickets of New Zealand, where bowlers will get movement of the pitch and in the air, it will be relatively easier for these batsmen with top-level experience, to acclimatize and deal with the conditions.

However, the bowling department too possesses some serious talent.

A lot of focus will be on the pace trio of Shivam Mavi, Arshdeep Singh and Porel. On those helpful New Zealand wickets, Mavi and Porel can generate some serious pace whereas left-arm seamer Arshdeep will add variety. As a back-up option, there is the seam bowling all-rounder Kamlesh Nagarkoti, who has a List A hat-trick to his name.

On the other hand, the spin department will be looked after by left-armer Abhishek and wrist-spin duo of Pankaj Yadav and Rahul Chahar. The young Rajasthan leg-spinner Chahar has IPL experience with Rising Pune Supergiants and he bowled quite brilliantly in a few of those highly competitive matches.

The 15-member squad also includes five stand-by players. All these selected cricketers, apart from Shaw and Porel who are currently featuring in the Ranji quarter-finals, will participate in a preparatory camp in Bengaluru from December 8 to 22 under the watchful eyes of coach Rahul Dravid.

The Under-19 World Cup has always been considered as a stepping stone for international cricket. We have first seen the glimpses of the talents of Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and many other international cricketers in this particular tournament. Now-a-days all India matches in the Under-19 World Cup are televised live, which provides a huge platform for these talented youngsters to attract eyeballs. So, any significant performance in the tournament will be recognised, that’s for sure.

Indian colts will commence their campaign with a clash against Australia Under-19 on January 14 at Mount Maunganui.

Squad:

Prithvi Shaw (C), Shubman Gill (VC), Manjot Kalra, Himanshu Rana, Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag, Aryan Juyal, Harvik Desai, Shivam Mavi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel, Arshdeep Singh, Anukul Roy, Shiva Singh, Pankaj Yadav

Standby players:

Om Bhosle, Rahul Chahar, Ninad Rathva, Urvil Patel, Aditya Thakare
 

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