India, Aug. 26 -- The first thing that strikes you about the ICC U-19 World Cup is that the young fast bowlers are well ahead of the batsmen in their development.
There's one striking exception, the tantalising talents of India left-arm orthodox spinner Harmeet Singh. He bowls like Bishen Bedi, with that same natural flight and guile that would place him right now as the best spin bowler in any Test side bar England.
Harmeet has the skills to be a successful spinner, given he has the necessary temperament to handle the tough environment that is international cricket and a sympathetic skipper.
The very best players need to be constantly challenged from a young age and that means regularly being upgraded when they have success at a lower level. I recall an exasperated Rod Marsh when he was head coach at the Australian Academy blurting out; "Thank heavens for Tasmania."
When I asked why, he replied; "They pick young players on ability not age."
Their selectorial wisdom resulted in the fast tracking of David Boon and Ricky Ponting.
That's why the big money needs to be spent on finding the right selectors rather than lavished on a small town population of coaches who often make decisions to justify their existence rather than in the best interests of the players.
Get them young
A cricketer like Harmeet will stagnate if he's left for too long at a lower level and that leads to sloppy habits.
Harmeet's well and truly ready for the challenge from Virat Kohli and Co with a view to inclusion in the national side.
The other U-19 player in that category is India captain Unmukt Chand. He's a talented batsman and should also be consistently plying his trade at a higher level. Both Harmeet and Unmukt have played first-class cricket but it isn't doing their games any good to include them in an Under-19 World Cup even if it does help India win the trophy.
There's always a temptation to win another trophy but it mustn't be done at the cost of a young player's development. Rodney was right; players must be chosen on their skill level not their age.
India are the envy of the other major nations. Their best young batsmen (in Townsville and at home) are technically better than most of their counterparts from the other Test playing nations.
All the India players need is regular exposure to bouncy surfaces against strong opposition and the national team's recent travails in England and Australia will soon be a thing of the past.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.