BANGALORE: Yuvraj Singh is perhaps the best guy to talk to about the leveraging effect of age category tournaments.
It was in 2000 that Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif starred in India’s Under 19 World Cup win, catapulting themselves into national reckoning and setting themselves up nicely for a fruitful career ahead.
In 2008, Virat Kohli helmed India to another Under-19 World Cup win, this time in Malaysia. Yuvraj, who was Man of the Series in 2000, says the Unmukt Chand-led Indian colts stand a good chance to reel in a third trophy at the 2012 U-19 World Cup, which begins in Australia next month.
"I have seen Unmukt and Manan Vohra and think they are very very good and can go on to bigger things. Unmukt has scored hundreds in the Asia Cup and he looks like a very good batsman. I hope he can carry on in this tournament and in the future.
“It is a strong team and we have a good chance. These two (Unmukt and Manan) look good and they have a good future ahead,” says Yuvraj, who has been named in the 30 probables for the Twenty20 World Cup in September.
Delhi’s Unmukt has been a revelation, plundering hundreds almost at will across tournaments and leading the side to wins in Australia and the Asia Cup, although the latter was split with Pakistan after a tied final.
Currently preparing for the World Cup at the National Cricket Academy, Unmukt and his team are on the cusp of recognition, a break into the big league (if playing for Delhi Daredevils doesn’t already count as one) a whisker away.
But Yuvraj says there were still various kinds of pressures that the greenhorns have to master.
“At the under-19 level one of the issues is suddenly you have to cope with bigger grounds. It happened to me too. Plus, now these events are televised and that too can add to the pressure. And whatever is the age-group, you are playing for India and that is a huge pressure.”
Another thing that the southpaw advises youngsters is to focus on the domestic circuit.
“You get recognised once you do well for India at the under-19 level, but you need a base in Ranji Trophy. I played at the under-19 level in early 2000 and after a few months I was playing for India. I did well in the beginning and then I had some bad games, was dropped, played the Ranji Trophy and came back.”
A push in the right direction, Yuraj says, can also count for a lot. When he was struggling for form in the initial stages of the 2000 tournament, coach Roger Binny walked up to him and told him not to worry and that he would eventually be Man of the Series.
The confidence-booster fired Yuvraj up.
"I remember that tournament well. I didn't do well in the first game, threw my wicket away with a bad shot and was sitting disappointed in the dressing room when Roger Binny sir told me don't worry it's just one game. Focus and you can be the man of the series. I was thinking Man of the series and me?
“You see at that age, you have many insecurities and you need someone to give you that confidence and the same is the case with these players (current bunch).”
Binny’s role is now being performed by B. Arun, former India medium-pacer, who also has high hopes for the present under-19 team.
Arun and the squad have just returned from a team building exercise at Nagarhole National Park and the break from routine appears to have rejuvenated both coach and team.
“We have played all teams except South Africa over the last year and we have beaten all of them. This gives is the confidence to do well in the World Cup.
Self-belief is often drawn largely from what you have done in the past. We won the Quadrangular in Australia, the one in India and in the Asia Cup final we finished with a tie (against Pakistan).
"The nucleus of our team is the same and it is the same with other teams. We have our database on all teams,” Arun says.
Arun however stops short of pinpointing his own players who he thinks will be central to India’s scheme down under.
“It would be unfair to name a few key players. Yes, Unmukt has done well but everyone has chipped in. There have been contributions like 25 runs in 10 balls but those often escapes attention.”