Perfect chance for bigger play

India, Aug. 27 -- It is a wonderful feeling that our boys have brought home the Cup once again. India's Under-19 World Cup victory in Australia reminded me of the golden days of my career when I lifted the trophy with Yuvraj Singh, Ajay Ratra and Reetinder Sodhi.

It's a great achievement for Indian cricket, and we should celebrate it. My congratulations to the team and to skipper Unmukt Chand, who led from the front to fashion India's third Under-19 World Cup win.

This victory has laid a great platform for the youngsters and is a perfect opportunity for them to build on.

In the last 12 years this has been the trend, players making it to the senior side after performing well in the U-19 World Cup. But it's not been same story for everyone as one has to maintain his performance for a long time to realise the dream of playing for India.

The players will be back home soon to join their teams, and they should concentrate on continuing good work in domestic cricket. That is what will decide whether you seal a place in the senior team or not.

It's true that in cricket at 19 one can plan for a career for the next 10-15 years. But for that, one needs to be extraordinary as far as performance is concerned. In the past, there were many in the Under-19 sides who could not make it to the senior side as their performances went down.

The way they improve their technique and mental strength will help them make a mark in their careers.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India deserves praise for its focus on developing junior cricket. The players have been together for a year and exposure trips, good training facilities and all-round support have made our dream come true.

My advice to the Under-19 players is that they should think positively and work hard as cricket at the senior level is a different ball game.

I never played Ranji Trophy until I did well in the Under-19 World Cup. I proved myself in senior cricket too soon after when I struck my first Ranji hundred.

And only when I made it to the senior team did I realise how important my performances in Under-19 and domestic cricket was for my career.

Overall it was a good team effort. Chand more than justified his appointment as captain. What an innings under pressure, that too, in the final! If I had to pick players for the future, Chand would be in that list.

Even Baba Aparajith is a good all-round package while I loved the way Harmeet Singh used his height to extract bounce.

The writer captained India to their first U-19 World Cup victory in 2000 and went on to play Tests and limited overs cricket for the national side.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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