It is the place where all worries come to an end and dreams begin - my University campus had this extremely cheesy line in front of the central library. Never ever did it hit me during my days at the campus but once I stepped out and saw the world, the reality struck.
I was a 23-year-old then, with boxful of ambitions and out to make the world my oyster. I could dream, I could conquer and could become whatever I want. Eyes twinkled and I took the plane to Bengaluru to join the organisation for which I am writing now. It is a journey of rosy-eyed fantasy that came true; surely a facet of adult life any cricketer would be able to relate. It is, after all, a journey of throny narrative, culminating with the singular ambition of taking the national cricket team’s flag onward and upward.
The U-19 World Cup is where the “worries come to an end” and “dreams begin” for it is the place that gives you the first feel of wearing that revered jersey, more often than not. It is a place where the Virat Kohlis and Steve Smiths, the Kane Williamsons and Joe Roots are being shaped before stepping onto the bigger world. The twinkle in their eyes is the only thing that guides their inner drive to become successful in life. It is a place that surely leaves a lasting memory for many who would go on to become living legends and for the rest who falter on the wayside but hold dear to the memories of those few weeks while thinking himself as an international player.
This edition of the U19 World Cup in South Africa was not only a sneak peak to what the sport’s future holds but also a fine reminder that how cricket has evolved in the last few years, with the impact of T20 being all the more visible. In the world obsessed with teaching the boys the importance of playing with straight bat, the kids ramped across, brought the variations to the fore, made the oppositions huff and puff while at the same time also leaving the audience gasping for breath.
Australia’s Jake Fraser-McGurk seemed like a talent cut from different cloth as was India’s Yasashvi Jaiswal, who through his flawless technique and ability to negotiate with different situations became the stand-out player of the tournament. South Africa’s left-handed Bryce Parsons was the perfect Quinny prototype - head strong, elegant feet movement, with the body falling over the line of the shot to hit those cross-batted strokes with elan. A close look at India’s Priyam Garg tells you the reason why Uttar Pradesh has been a fine feeder system to the Indian youth team - a channel of streamed talent, organised and focussed, ready to make the big jump.
The Batch of 2016 had some of the fine talents as well, cue Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, Mehidy Hasan, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul, Mason Crane, Sam Curran, Mohammad Saifuddin, Lutho Sipamla, Lahiru Kumara, Alzarri Joseph, Washington Sundar, and Sandeep Lamichhane. Not only have a staggering number of them been able to make themselves a regular fixture in the national side, the likes of Pant, Hasan, Hetmyer, Paul, Curran, Sundar and Lamichhane have become irresistible forces, being deemed as the holder of the country’s glory in the coming days. The Batch of 2018 has not been left much behind too, with Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Tom Banton, Saif Hasan, Ikram Alikhil already becoming the mainstays in their respective national sides.
While the number of talents coming through the system has gone through the roof, even with a big buffer line of franchise and A cricket in place, the talents who are destined to play for the country someday don't just fritter away like that. Take Fraser-McGurk for example. The Victorian, who has been a regular in the state side now, didn’t have a great tournament but his stance made him stand out. The disdainful attitude to the length by organising himself in the last moment ensured a finer crafty batsman at work, who was equally good on front-foot as he was on backfoot. A look at him would tell you, Ian Bishop would attest, that this is a talent that needs to be given the highest order or preference and attention.
The less we talk about Jaiswal is better because we are going to hear a lot of him in the years to come. It was the show of maturity by a boy who could go on front foot to ramp a left-arm pacer for a six and then play out a 100-ball 60 in the next game because the team needs a strong head at that point in time. That’s fine, many can still do it. But tell me, how a U19 boy would control the trajectory till the last second and bowl the drifter and googly with so much of control which would put even some of the greats of the game to shame? Ravi Bishnoi’s bowling was sheer brilliance in action and we should be thankful for witnessing these guys at full flow even before they make the big jump.
Bitter but a reality hard to ignore that there was a point in time in English cricket that if you can bowl spin - doesn’t matter the effectiveness - you will play for the country one day. A country that was perennially striving for crafty spinners has now seen Lewis Goldsworthy, bowling his slow left-arm deliveries, to send one Sri Lankan batsman after another for fun in Benoni. A rhythmic action, followed by a nifty stride on the crease, Goldsworthy has made him a bowler to look forward to in the future. Likewise Sam Fanning, an Australian batsman in the mould of Justin Langer, played to his strength for long, albeit his strike rate did bring questions. But there are no U19 World Cups in red-ball cricket, and if Fanning is guided properly, then don’t be surprised to see an Aussie opener making a wave in the long run.
That said, it is easy to get carried away by seeing the burst of talents at the U-19 stage for we know Unmukt Chand and William Bossisto’s career turning south after leading their respective sides to the 2012 U-19 final, but cynicism is probably the worst thing to carry at the times of depression and drugs. We can be excited, hope for a brighter future and wish the bunch of youngsters, who made us entertain in the last few weeks, to go on and write history.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi