ICC U-19 World Cup 2020 started this Friday at Kimberley, South Africa with the hosts bowing to a fiery Afghanistan. The fast bowlers again stole the show with a match-winning display. The last ICC U-19 World Cup in Australia also showcased some incredible fast bowling talents, none more impressive than eventual Champions India. Even though Manjot Kalra hit a hundred in the finals and Captain Prithvi Shaw shone with the bat along with Shubman Gill, it was the fast bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Ishan Porel that grabbed all the headlines.
For the 2020 edition, teams are divided into 4 groups with the top 2 in each group progressing to the Super League stage. India are in group A along with New Zealand, Sri Lanka and first-time qualifiers Japan. India kick-start their campaign on Sunday against Sri Lanka at Bloemfontein. India start as one of the favorites but defending the crown will not be easy.
Here’s a rundown on the 15-member squad:
Priyam Garg (Captain): India U-19 squad is being led by Uttar Pradesh middle-order batsman Priyam Garg. The 19-year old broke into in the senior squad for his state during the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. He has scored 867 runs in 12 First Class games including a double century against Tripura in December 2018 and 707 runs in 19 List-A games. The right-hander took up odd jobs in a bid to pursue his cricketing dream. Having missed out on a spot in the 2018 U-19 WC squad, he’d want to make this opportunity worth the wait.
Dhruv Jurel (Vice-Captain, wicketkeeper): Born to a war veteran in Agra, Dhruv is yet to play a First Class or List-A game. However, his keeping skills have been subject to a lot of accolades and the right-hander is expected to be the mainstay in the middle order. He averages 47.44 in U-19 games with the bat which includes a match-winning 59* in the final of the tri-nation cup in England last year. He even captained India U-19 to Asia Cup title in Sri Lanka.
Yashasvi Jaiswal: Arguably the most popular player in the team, Yashasvi Jaiswal’s inspiring story is well documented. As a young boy, he sold paani puris in the streets of Mumbai to fuel his cricketing ambitions. After being dropped post-Sri Lanka series, the left-hander made a remarkable comeback and has never looked back since. The 17-year old became the youngest player to score a List-A double hundred when he smashed 203 off 155 balls against Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He finished his debut List-A tournament with 564 runs at 112.60. Rajasthan Royals picked him up for 2.4 Cr in IPL 2020 auction last month.
Tilak Varma: The other left-handed opener, Varma made his first-class debut for Hyderabad last year but hasn’t got another chance in Ranji Trophy since then. He did make his mark in limited-overs cricket though with some fine knocks for Hyderabad which included a 59-ball 83 against Andhra. He’s handy with his off-spinners too.
Divyaansh Saxena: Another left-handed batsman from Mumbai, Saxena was India U-19’s leading run-scorer on the England tour last year. Although yet to make his debut in First Class and List-A, the 18-year old has been in a purple patch with the bat. He received adulation from everyone when he scored 122 on a tricky pitch against South Africa U-19. He also smashed 128* against Zimbabwe in the lead up to the U-19 World Cup.
Shashwat Rawat: The 18-year old from Uttarakhand hasn’t had the best of time with India U-19s but his recent performances have been promising. A left-handed middle-order batsman and a right-arm medium-pacer, Shashwat adds much-needed balance to the team and good performances from him will go a long way in deciding India U-19’s fate at the World Cup. He has scored 245 runs in 17 games for India U-19s with a best of 53 in a tricky chase of 189 against Afghanistan at home.
Siddhesh Veer: The Maharashtra lad replaced injured Divyansh Joshi from the originally announced squad. He’s yet to make his first-class or List-A debut but has experience of playing age-group cricket for Maharashtra. He made scores of 71 against New Zealand and 48 against South Africa in the recently concluded quadrangular series.
Shubhang Hegde: The Karnataka prodigy has been a familiar name in Karnataka cricket circles. Primarily a left-arm spinner, Hegde has proved he’s no muck with the bat either. He compiled a patient 46 against Afghanistan U-19 in the series he led India U-19 to a 3-2 victory at home. Although he only managed to pick only 4 wickets in 8 games for Belagavi Panthers in the 2019 Karnataka Premier League, his economy of 6.55 was amongst the best in the league.
Ravi Bishnoi: A tall leg-spinner from Jodhpur, Bishnoi is the first-choice spinner in the team. He had an impressive quadrangular series in the lead up to the U-19 World Cup. His exploits for Rajasthan in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy saw him force his way into the Deodhar Trophy squad for India A. Kings XI Punjab picked him up the 2020 IPL auction last month.
Akash Singh: A left-arm pacer that the Indian senior team is yearning for. With a Trent Boult-like action, this left-arm speedster from Rajasthan has a good bouncer as well as a yorker. In the U-19 Asia Cup final, he rocked Bangladesh U-19 early with an opening spell of 5-1-12-3 defending a paltry 106. India went on to win the title and Akash Singh impressed scouts enough to land an IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals for the 2020 season.
Kartik Tyagi: Kartik will, in all probability, open the bowling attack with Akash Singh. The Uttar Pradesh lad has consistently clocked 140+ and also picked a hattrick against Afghanistan in the practice match earlier this week. He picked a total of 41 wickets from 8 games in the Cooch Behar Trophy 2018-19. Rajasthan Royals picked him up at the auctions.
Sushant Mishra: The third wheel of India’s pace trio at the World Cup, Mishra came to the fore when he knocked over Suresh Raina with his second ball at a Chennai Super Kings training session. He has the best numbers among the three pacers with 29 wickets from 13 games. He idolized Zaheer Khan growing up as the best left-arm Indian pacer.
Atharva Ankolekar: This Mumbaikar has toiled his way up the ladder from a very humble background. Raised by a single mother who is a bus conductor in Mumbai, Atharva didn’t give up on his dream. The left-arm spinner was the wrecker-in-chief during the U-19 Asia Cup final with figures of 5-28. This after picking 4-16 and 3-36 against Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively. Since then, he has taken 15 wickets from 7 games at 11.80.
Vidyadhar Patil: Born in Raichur, Karnataka, Patil represented Champions Hubli Tigers in the Karnataka Premier League. He was trusted with the death-bowling duties. The right-arm quick has picked up 13 wickets in 12 games for India U-19s and completes an exciting group of fast bowlers.
Kumar Kushagra: In the squad as a back-up wicketkeeper, Kushagra is a right-handed batsman from Jharkhand. Rings a bell? Unlike MS Dhoni, Kushagra is an opening batsman and has got limited opportunities with the India U-19 team behind regular wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel.