Few careers will get wings to soar while some will fade into oblivion but on Sunday, all those sprightly 18 and 19-year-old Indian boys will leave no stone unturned to win a record sixth ICC Under-19 World Cup when they face Australia in the summit clash here.
On November 19 last year, an Australian team left Rohit Sharma and his band teary-eyed on a global stage and for the young Indians, beating an Aussie team would certainly be very sweet.
“No, we are not thinking about revenge. We are firmly focussed on present and we neither want to dwell on past or look too far ahead,” skipper Saharan recently told PTI Bhasha in Benoni.
The Aussies have a quartet which could spell trouble for India — skipper Hugh Weibgen, opener Harry Dixon, seamers Tom Straker and Callum Vidler — the consistent performers during this edition.
India U-19 had beaten Australia in the 2012 and 2018 finals, and will again start favourites during this edition’s title match.
The Indian team has always been an age-group powerhouse, thanks to the talent the country produces in hundreds and its ninth global final is a testimony to the system that has been put in place for the last two decades.
From 2016, India U-19s have played all the finals, winning the 2018 and 2022 editions while losing in 2016 and 2020.
Since Virat Kohli’s side won the trophy in 2008, the U-19 World Cup has gained a lot of traction and the curiosity value does increase due to live TV coverage and streaming.
The U-19 World Cup has presented stars like Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal to name a few, who have risen through the ranks.
But cold facts will tell us that the list of those who have failed to make it to the top grade after instant stardom is way bigger.
From Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Gaurav Dhiman, back in the early 2000s, to Unmukt Chand, Harmeet Singh, Vijay Zol, Sandeep Sharma, Ajitesh Argal, Kamal Passi, Siddharth Kaul, Smit Patel, Ravikant Singh and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, the list goes on.
People do tend to forget that senior domestic cricket is a huge step up from the U-19s where bossing the age-group players from other nations, although praiseworthy, isn’t a big deal.
The quick walk to stardom does create a false sense of vanity and people fail to replicate that in their senior years.
Truth be told, the current team led by Saharan, didn’t initially look like a great outfit as it even failed to enter the final of the U-19 Asia Cup a couple of months back. But here all pieces of the puzzle have fallen in place.
Led by Saharan, who is leading the batting charts with 389 runs, the team’s performance got better with each match and the only time it has been pushed to a corner in the tournament is the semifinal where it pipped hosts South Africa by a solitary wicket.
The jury is still out on how many of them can make it big but if there have been two stand-out players, who looked cut out for bigger things, one is young Maharashtra batter Sachin Dhas, who has revelled in the role of a finisher, and left-arm spinner Saumy Pandey, who has so far taken 17 wickets.
Dhas didn’t get an IPL contract as he had not yet played any senior-level game, hence being ineligible for the auction. However, he is one batter who has shown temperament, a pre-requisite for the highest level.
Saharan is more of an accumulator while Sarfaraz Khan’s younger brother Musheer, who is the second highest run-getter, is also a handy left-arm spinner.
Right-arm pacer Raj Limbani and left-arm seamer Naman Tiwari have been effective but are far from ready for the next level.
But on Sunday, they will look to pass the test put up by the Aussies.
India: Uday Saharan (C), Arshin Kulkarni, Adarsh Singh, Rudra Mayur Patel, Sachin Dhas, Priyanshu Moliya, Musheer Khan, Aravelly Avanish Rao (WK), Saumy Kumar Pandey (VC), Murugan Abhishek, Innesh Mahajan (WK), Dhanush Gowda, Aaradhya Shukla, Raj Limbani, Naman Tiwari.
Australia: Hugh Weibgen (C), Lachlan Aitken, Charlie Anderson, Harkirat Bajwa, Mahli Beardman, Tom Campbell, Harry Dixon, Ryan Hicks (wk), Sam Konstas, Rafael MacMillan, Aidan O’Connor, Harjas Singh, Tom Straker, Callum Vidler, Ollie Peake.
Match Starts: 1:30 pm IST.