The developmental U-19 World Cup has always been a hotbed of talents for India giving birth to some of the legends of game. With the three-time champions getting yet another fiery start under the guidance of Rahul Dravid, we look at India’s all-time best eleven that has emerged from the tournament.
Virender Sehwag- The swashbuckling opener’s selection in 1998’s U-19 squad came after the boy from Najafgarh scored a brilliant 274 against South Zone, playing for North Zone, in the 1998-99 Duleep Trophy season. Though India couldn’t manage to make an impact in the tournament under the captaincy of Amit Pagnis, his consistency on the domestic circuit earned him a place in the national team. He went on to score 15 centuries, 38 half-centuries and a double ton in 251 ODIs at an average of 35.06 and ended his career as one of its history's all-time great cricketers. Sehwag's flamboyant style of play captured the imagination of the entire nation and made him the most-prized wicket in a line-up that had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid. Despite Shikhar Dhawan edging him ahead with sheer numbers, he could never create the menace that Sehwag was able to instil in the opposition camps. It should be noted that the southpaw has plied his trade on a more docile surface compared to Sehwag, who changed India’s way of opening forever on the toughest of tracks and against the fiercest of bowlers.
Rohit Sharma - Arguably the best opener in ODIs at the moment, Rohit Sharma got his place in the 2006 U-19 World Cup, courtesy to his unbeaten innings of 142 against North Zone, playing for West Zone. Though India didn’t win the tournament in 2006 either, an 18-year-old Sharma scored 205 runs in six matches at an average of 41. He had already caught the eye of the selectors making his senior debut against Ireland in 2007, and the rest as we say is history. He has played 174 ODIs for India since then, scoring 16 tons and three double tons at a whopping average of 45.24. He has amassed 7377 ODI runs for India so far.
Virat Kohli- The decorated Indian skipper was a winner right from inception. He entered in the U-19 Indian side after finishing as the highest run-getter in the Inter-State T20 Championship. He led the Indian team to the second U-19 World Cup title in 2008, where he scored 235 runs in 6 matches at an average of 47. Senior national call-up and IPL stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore followed next and he didn’t miss any window of opportunity. He has scored a staggering 32 centuries and 45 half-centuries in ODIs so far amassing 9844 runs at an average of 55.74.
Yuvraj Singh- Like Kohli, Yuvraj was a regular in India’s U-19 squad before he represented the U-19 side in the 2000 U-19 World Cup. Under the captaincy of the mercurial Mohammad Kaif, the all-rounder was brilliant as he got 68 off 62 and 4/36 against New Zealand in a group stage match and a quick-fire 58 off 25 balls against Australia in the semifinal. The gates were wide open for him in the national squad as he travelled with the Indian squad for the 2000 ICC KnockOut Trophy. The world took notice when an 18-year-old stood up against the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie, scoring 84 runs. He soon became a regular for the Men in Blue and has played 304 ODIs so far scoring 14 centuries and 52 half-centuries. He was a lynchpin in India’s 2011 World Cup title and although not a regular
Suresh Raina- Raina was stealing the limelight in the domestic circuit before he made it to the U-19 squad in 2004. It was the Asian ODI Championship in 2003 that actually spurred his selection and the southpaw grabbed the opportunity with both hands with three half-centuries in the U-19 World Cup under the captaincy of Ambati Rayudu. Though it took him time for Raina to break into the first team, owing to the strong Indian middle order that consisted the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Kaif and Yuvraj, Raina came into the limelight in India’s 2010 tour of Sri Lanka. He became more of a regular in the side after the 2011 WC and has played 223 ODIs so far, scoring five centuries and 38 half-centuries at an average of 35.46. With India yet to solve their No.4 conundrum, Raina has hopes of returning to the side ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Dinesh Karthik (wk)- India
Harbhajan Singh- Making his first-class debut in 1997 for Punjab, Harbhajan impressed in the Ranji Trophy. It was followed by his selection for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy, which was interrupted by a call-up in the 1998 U-19 World Cup. He played six matches and took eight wickets at 24.75. His form on the domestic circuit remained impressive before he was called up in India’s 1999-2000 tour of Australia. Having a slow start, playing second fiddle to Anil Kumble, and his disciplinary actions kept him in and out of the national side. Harbhajan has played 236 ODIs so far, claiming 269 at an average of 33.36.
Ravindra Jadeja- Making his first U-19 at the age of 16 in 2005, Jadeja was selected in the 2006 U-19 World Cup where India finished runners-up to Pakistan. He came back stronger in the following instalment of the tournament in 2008, where he claimed 10 wickets in 6 games at an average of 13 as the vice-captain, leading India to the title. However, the all-rounder still needed a phenomenal showing in the 2008–09 Ranji season, where he took 42 wickets and scored 739 runs, to get his international call-up in a tour of Sri Lanka. Jadeja has been a significant cog in India’s wheel during the Dhoni era, where he has played 136 ODIs, scoring 2244 runs and claiming 155 wickets. Though Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal have kept him out of the limited-overs format at the moment, he will be the first name to come to mind, if BCCI has to look elsewhere.
Irfan Pathan- Even before making his appearance in the 2002 U-19 World Cup, Pathan was a big name at the junior level. And he didn’t disappoint when got selected in the tournament either, where he took six wickets at 27.50 and scored 30 runs at 15.00, taking 2/18 in a win over South Africa. His meteoric rise at the lower level continued before he was selected in India’s 2003 tour of Australia. Pathan has, since then, played 120 ODIs for India, claiming 173 wickets and scoring 1544 runs.
Rudra Pratap Singh- India are seemingly entering a golden generation of fast bowling at the moment, but quite surprisingly, none of the current stars
Jaydev Unankat- Playing in the 2010 U-19 World Cup squad, Unandkat came into limelight after his IPL stint with Kolkata Knight Riders in 2010. KKR bowling coach, Wasim Akram, had described him as a talent for the future, but the bowler has failed to deliver on every big occasion so far. He has taken eight wickets in seven ODIs so far, but the 26-year-old still has time and fitness to make it big in the coming years.