Defending champions India will be full of confidence as ICC U19 World Cup gets under way on February 14 in UAE. The Indians, as expected, are one of the favourites to win the cup this time as well, along with others like nations like Australia and England.
The side will be led by Vijay Zol, a successful campaigner as far as under-19 cricket is concerned. The Indian team has quite a few gems in their squad because of which there are high hopes from them.
Here are 5 players from India who are expected to make their mark in this tournament and are the ones who have it in them to win the championship for India again.
5. Akhil Herwadkar
He is a very useful hand with the bat at the top of the order. He was part of the team that won the title last time, and we can be sure he will be hungry for another triumph this time around. This left-hander from Mumbai is also in a good run of form and he even got a hundred against the UAE U19 last month, in a game that the Indians won handsomely by 189 runs.
He will most probably be joined by Ankush Bains at the other end as both of them open for India. He will be required to provide a solid start at the onset, and as far his stats go, he seems quite capable of doing that. He averages close to 30 in the U19 ODI games that he has played.
He can even bowl right-arm off break, but his services with the ball are sought only if a 5th bowling option is needed and nobody else looks fit to fulfil it. Therefore, his role will mainly be of batting at the start of the innings and if he can pull something off like what Gambhir did in the 2011 World Cup for India, then the Indian prospects certainly seem bright.
4. Kuldeep Yadav
This spinner, hailing from Uttar Pradesh, has had an amazing record for Team India and averages below 20 with the ball in ODIs. He has very often proved to be difficult to pick with his clever variations, and his recent form looks nothing short of excellent.
He started this year with two impressive performances, picking up 3/49 against Sri Lanka and 3/72 against Pakistan in the semi-final and the final respectively of the U19 Asia Cup, which India won in style.
There is no reason he can’t produce performances of a similar nature in the upcoming World Cup, and India will only be too happy to receive his contribution with the ball. He has shown that he can pick up wickets.
If properly groomed, he can very well represent India in coming days as a left-arm spinner, not many of who have been produced by India. Thus, he can add a new dimension to the bowling attack, like what he already does for the U19s attack.
Expect him to play a major role in the series and make useful contributions for his side.
3. Ankush Bains
He is the Dhoni of the U19 side, save for the fact that he does not captain the side, and opens the batting instead of coming down the order. He is an amazing wicketkeeper, and since he opens as well, he will be in action for a better part of the game.
He has been part of some brilliant opening run stands along with Akhil Herwadkar, and both of them will be all geared up to produce some similar performances in the all-important World Cup coming up. He often gives a quick start to the innings so that the following batsmen can build up on it and get the team to a good total.
He played a major role in the Asia cup as well, bagging Man of the Match in the semi-final for his fifty and also scored a quick-fire 47 in the final to give India that nice head start which is always helpful in limited overs cricket. He can be expected to do some Sehwag-like damage at the top with his bat.
As regards his wicket-keeping, he has been affecting dismissals regularly and India can be rest assured of a safe pair of hands behind the stumps of this guy gets going well. He will play a major part if India are to make it big in this tournament.
2. Sanju Samson
This batting sensation at no. 4 is what Virat Kohli is to the national side. Probably the most dependable and consistent batsman that India has, Sanju has his work cut out as India go in for another World Cup campaign.
He is also part of the Rajasthan Royals franchise, hence he has already been in the limelight outside his U19 sphere. That leaves no doubt that he will be watched very keenly as he tries and helps India defend the title.
The stats are on his side. He averages above 40 in the first-class format and close to 30 in the List A format. His last innings saw him get a century against Pakistan in the final of the Asia Cup. He took just 87 balls to get there, hitting 8 fours and 4 sixes while he batted.
If needed, he can also keep wickets in case Bains is not available. The other teams will surely be giving a thought on how to stop his bat, given that if he gets going there is no stopping him and he usually tilts the game his team’s way when he does so. He is one of the players who, if finds his form and rhythm, can be one of the contenders of the Man of the Tournament award.
1. Vijay Zol
The skipper will obviously have the largest role to play if his team has to garner hopes of winning the title once again. He bats at no. 3, and is one of India’s main batters. His role will be of the anchor of the batting line up – others will be playing around him while he will be expected to hold one end up. He was part of the squad that claimed the trophy last time as well, but this time it is different for him, now that he is the leader of the side.
He won the Man of the Match in the final of the Asia Cup concluded this month for his brilliant century that just took the game away from Pakistan. India will have a great shot at the trophy if he can produce such masterpieces in the upcoming games.
As regards his responsibility as captain, he has a very able side at his disposal. All he has to do is marshal his resources carefully and take the right decisions. India won the Asia Cup under his leadership, so we can safely say that he has prior experience of successfully leading his side.
It will be a dream run for him if the Indians are able to defend the title this time. How he carries himself will have a great impact on how Team India ends up performing. He definitely has the calibre to contribute in a big way to India’s success.