The twelfth edition of the Under-19 World Cup gave us a glimpse into the potential superstars of the future. A total of 16 teams participated in the multination tournament, that spanned over three weeks in the picturesque islands of New Zealand. India won the tournament and in the process, became the most successful team on the youth stage with 4 titles. The most encouraging part of the tournament was the quality of cricket that was on display. Former cricketers like Sourav Ganguly and Ian Bishop were full of praise for the young players.
In a tournament comprising of 240 players, some managed to shine brighter than others. I decided to take a look at the young stars who shone the brightest on the world stage.
KAMLESH NAGARKOTI (INDIA)
He may not appear to have a robust physique but the 18-year-old from Barmer, Rajasthan, attracted the attention of the cricket fraternity by clocking 149kph in India’s first group-stage encounter against Australia. The interesting aspect about Nagarkoti was that he got all his success by bowling in the middle-overs.
One would expect that a bowler of this pace would be more suited with the new ball, but the team management gave him the extra responsibility of breaking the momentum of the opposition in the middle-overs. The pacer displayed good control in terms of line and length; also mixing up pace and delivering yorkers in the death overs, showcasing his full repertoire. He ended up the tournament with 9 wickets at an average of 16.33 and an economy rate of just under 3.5.
ALICK ATHANAZE (WEST INDIES)
The left-hander from Dominica finished the tournament as the highest run-getter with 418 runs in 6 matches. The ouster of the Windies team before the semi-final stage, took away the much-deserved spotlight from Athanaze, who shone the brightest for the defending champions with scores like 110*,87,116* and 76 against a well-bred South African bowling attack. With the senior team struggling for quality batsmen, the 19-year-old may be one of the options to bank on in the near future.
QAIS AHMAD (AFGHANISTAN)
Afghanistan continued to impress, even on the junior stage, by making it to the semi-finals. Their success was in large part due to the performances of the 17-year-old leg-breaker. He picked up a whooping 14 wickets including a four-fer against New Zealand, to set-up a historic semi-final clash against Australia.
Just like his predecessor Rashid Khan, Qais too has made a name for himself, owing to his mesmerizing leg-breaks as a teenager. Figures of 2/35,4/33,3/32,2/37 and 3/38 indicate how consistent he was throughout the tournament. It’s safe to say that the Afghan teenager is on the right path to make it big sooner rather than later.
RACHIN RAVINDRA (NEW ZEALAND)
The 18-year-old Kiwi all-rounder had a great tournament ― New Zealand could only manage to reach the quarter-finals ― but Ravindra impressed everyone with his performance with both bat and ball. He amassed an impressive 233 runs in 6 matches and scalped 13 wickets with his left-arm spin bowling.
The Wellington-born boy, who idolises Sachin Tendulkar and Daniel Vettori, made sure that he doesn’t go unnoticed, as just like his idol Vettori, he was tidy and accurate in all the matches. It will be interesting to see how he develops in the coming years and whether he can make it to the senior team, who already have a very capable all-rounder in Mitchell Santner.
SHUBMAN GILL (INDIA)
The man of the tournament, the leading run-scorer for India with 418 runs, at a mind boggling average of 104.50, was one of the major focal point of the World Cup. The 18-year-old displayed a great appetite for runs and was confident in his shot selections. It was a pleasant surprise, that, despite being so young, he studiously followed his game plan and executed it brilliantly, every time he went out to bat. He played shots all around the ground. Flick, cover drive, pull, upper cut, on drive, all shown through whenever he batted. In a high voltage game against Pakistan, he was calm as a cucumber and carried his team to 272 by scoring a timely century. He will now be turning out for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL and given his hunger for runs everytime he walks out to bat, it won’t be a surprise if he is again one of the focal points of the biggest T20 tournament too.
Apart from the above-mentioned stars, the tournament also witnessed some eye-catching prospects like Prithvi Shaw, Jason Sangha , Mujeeb Zadran, Shaheen Afridi, Jack Edwards, Raynard Van Tonder, Finn Allen and the list pretty much goes on. All these are healthy signs for the future of international cricket.
It is important for the players to realise that they need to keep learning from these experiences, in order to make an impression on the senior stage. Players like Brett Williams, Tanmay Srivastava, Ian Daniel and Wayne Holdsworth, enjoyed massive success in the U-19 tournaments but couldn’t go on to make it onto the international stage. Rahul Dravid rightly pointed out that it is just the beginning for the players and the process of evolving as a player is important, in his post-match interview after the final. The journey to stardom for the players, has just begun.