The year 2016 will start on a high note for our cricket-loving nation. Indians will get the privilege to watch young cricketers battling it out against other international teams in the ICC Under-19 World Cup. The tournament will be held in Bangladesh from 27th January 2016 to 14th February 2016.
This tournament of young stars is expected to create a buzz just before the start of the ICC World Twenty20. Following the spirit and spark of the game, the audience is well prepared to live these very special moments of cricket in 2016.
Though the U-19 tournament faced a major setback when Cricket Australia announced its withdrawal on 5th January amid safety concerns in Bangladesh, the tournament is still ready to roll on schedule. Flanked by controversies and criticism, the Indian Under-19 team is poised to be a strong contender for winning the title.
Led by Jharkhand wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan, the Indian side have former Indian legendary batsman Rahul Dravid as their coach. The squad contains seven batsmen, six bowlers and two wicketkeepers. Skipper Kishan, in 2015, led India to an impeccable win in the Tri-Nation Under-19 Tournament, held in Sri Lanka.
“I think India have got a very good balanced young side, especially for the conditions,” coach Dravid assured fans ahead of U-19 World Cup.
Here is a look at some of the young superstars looking to make India proud:
Sarfaraz Khan: 18-year-old hard-hitter from Mumbai, Sarfaraz Khan is already a bright star in domestic cricket and glittering even more after his Indian Premier League debut last year with Royal Challengers Bangalore. He joined RCB at the age of 17 and became the youngest batsman to play in the IPL.
Recently Sarfaraz stole the limelight with his impressive knock against England in the Tri-Nation Under-19 Tournament in Sri Lanka. With 84 runs off 66 balls, he spearheaded the Indian team to a victory against England.
His current form and statistics show the right-handed batsman in a favourable gloss. With a strike rate of 64, the explosive right-hander has scored 299 runs from 6 matches with an average of 37 runs.
Sarfaraz with his off-spin and a tidy economy rate of 4, adds the 6 bowler option to the side. His precious 2-wicket haul against Afghanistan last year, handed the Indian U-19 team a massive 104 runs victory. Are we finally looking at a true all-rounder in the making?
Armaan Jaffer: Picking up the traits of his uncle Wasim Jaffar, Arman Jaffar is possibly another legend ‘in the making’. This 17-year-old right-handed batsman is expected to be an eye soothing sight in U-19 World Cup.
Famous for his superlative style of play, this young chap from Mumbai registered his name in the book of records in December. Striking three consecutive double centuries for Mumbai at the Under-19 Cooch Behar Trophy, he caught the eye of selectors and spectators alike.
Earlier in 2010, Jaffar appeared in the news for his astonishing knock of 498 runs in an Inter-school cricket match. Lately, another boy from Mumbai, Praveen Dhanawade took that crown from Jaffar after flawlessly scoring 1009 runs in a single inning.
Washington Sundar: Son of former domestic cricketer, Washington Sundar started his career from Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s school cricket league. Following a great start and bizarre style of play, Sundar was named as ‘TNCA’s best school cricketer of the year’ in 2013.
On his inclusion in National U-19 cricket team, his school coach M Senthilnathan responded “Washington has all the potential to make it big and I am sure that he will make use of the chance he has got”
Carrying rich and impressive figures on his back, Sundar’s career-best performance originated in Kolkata last year. Taking 2 wickets for 25 runs, he supported the batting line-up as well with a powerful fifty. India outclassed Bangladesh by 4 wickets in that particular match and all the credit for triumph advanced to Washington Sundar. A rising star of Chennai in his early years, Sundar is poised to make his name in international cricket.
Rishabh Pant: Known for his aggressive nature of play, wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant is going to be an interesting fella among the Indian colts. Haridwar born left-handed batsman plays for Delhi and those who know him personally, call him ‘Todu’ for his destructive game style.
Rishabh has a freakish but impressive instinct in him, attacking the ball on the front foot rather than waiting for it. He is well rehearsed with his footwork making him a complete batsman. “This boy is a special talent, something that impressed me at the first sight,” his early mentor Tarak Sinha roared out of pride.
18-year-old Delhi boy admires Adam Gilchrist as his inspiration. He admitted earlier that watching Gilchrist in his childhood is something that led him to keeping wickets today.
His career best inning came from a match against Afghanistan in the Tri-Nation U-19 Tournament where he put on 118 runs off 98 balls, preceded by a 71 runs knock against England two days before. Currently, his average is 36 with a strike rate of 75, which he is expecting to boost through the period of the U-19 world cup.
Khaleel Ahmed: Khaleel Ahmed can better be recognised as the boy who presented India a tasteful title victory at the Tri-Nation Tournament, last year. His heroics by claiming three wickets in the final against Sri Lanka brought him under the limelight, which this young lad truly deserved.
Left-arm medium pacer Khaleel has a glittery stats sheet with a 4-wicket haul against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan each for 55 runs and 41 runs respectively.
“I have come through a lot of hardships and I want to make this opportunity count,” assured the speedster regarding his inclusion to the squad.
Akash Khanna | FYS