After losing a nail-biting final to West Indies in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, India will have yet another crack at glory in a trophy that they have won three times. Coach Rahul Dravid is in New Zealand with a new set of players, skippered by the prodigy Prithvi Shaw, who has made waves in the domestic circuit since making his debut. The team will begin their campaign against Australia at the Bay Oval on January 14.
Here’s a look at all the members of the Indian squad.
Prithvi Shaw (captain)
At the senior level, he’s knocking on the doors of the Indian side. At this level, he’s a superstar. Shaw captured people’s attention first when he, at 14, made 546 in an innings in a Harris Shield game. The doubts over his ability to transition successfully from school cricket to professional cricket he soon quelled when he debuted for Mumbai in first-class cricket with a hundred against Tamil Nadu. He’s 39 runs short of 1,000 first-class runs, having played just nine games. The strike-rate of 73.6 suggests the swiftness of his run-making. He’ll be the linchpin of India’s campaign.
Shubman Gill (vice-captain)
Shubman’s another promising youngster who’s so far lived up to his expectations at the first-class level. In the two Ranji Trophy matches that he played for Punjab this season, he made 245 runs at 61.25 with a hundred. He outscored Prithvi and the rest of the players when the Under-19 team toured England last July and August. He made 278 runs in the five-match ODI series at an average of 92.66. His dream, he told ESPNCricinfo, is to win the World Cup for the senior Indian team. For now, his goal will be to win the Under-19 trophy.
Manjot, along with Prithvi and Shubman, form the core of India U-19’s batting line-up. The Delhi lad notched up a hundred against England U-19 in a youth Test when the team toured in July and August. He was the second highest run-scorer in the Cooch Behar Trophy last year (742 runs from eight games. He was embroiled in an age-verification mess-up with the DDCA. But he’d hope to put that behind as India begin their quest in New Zealand.
Having made his first-class debut at 16, Rana’s one of the most-experienced members of the side. He’s made 792 runs in 15 games for Haryana including a career-best 129. His opening partnerships with Shaw will be crucial for India to lift the trophy for the fourth time.
Abhishek Sharma’s level progression in cricket has been quick. In one year, he’s gone from playing for Punjab U-16 to become an important member of the Indian U-19 side. He scored over 1,000 runs and picked up 50-plus wickets in the 2016 Vijay Merchant trophy. Having made his first-class debut in this Ranji Trophy season, he’s played in four games, making 202 runs and picking up six wickets. Sharma will be one of the all-rounders to watch out in this edition of the tournament.
Harvik Desai made his List-A debut for Saurashtra this season and has played five matches. The wicket-keeper batsman made a first-innings 89 at number seven at Chesterfield in the youth Test last July. Desai is likely to be India’s first-choice wicket-keeper in New Zealand.
Riyan made three half-centuries in the two youth Tests he played in England. He made the most runs in Under-19 challenger trophy. His 204 runs in four innings at a 50-plus average sealed his spot for the World Cup. His strike rate of 91 and six sixes in the tournament suggest that Parag’s a big-hitter.
The son of two doctors, this 16-year-old from Uttar Pradesh topped batting charts in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy this year. He was the fourth highest run-getter (171 runs in four innings) in the Challenger Trophy. Juyal hasn’t played a first-class or a List-A match but will be hoping to be among the playing XI in the tournament.
Mavi caught the eye of the selectors after picking up nine wickets from just four game in the zonal level challengers tournament. The 19-year-old pacer honed his trade at the Victoria Park academy in Meerut, and has big boots to fill as the coaching clinic produced Praveen Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Mavi, though, doesn’t generate prodigious swing like the two Kumars and is more of a hit-the-deck-hard bowler.
Another pacer, Kamlesh Nagarkoti rose to prominence with a memorable 10-wicket haul against England at Chesterfield in 2017. Nagarkoti’s 10/112 helped India to a massive 334-run win. Before handing over the reigns to Rahul Dravid, WV Raman sung the praises of Nagarkoti, calling him a “fantastic athlete with the right attitude”. The Rajasthan lad can get the ball to move both ways and picked up a hat-trick in only his second list A match. On the seam-friendly wickets in New Zealand, much will depend on Nagarkoti and his new-ball partner Mavi.
Ishan Porel is a highly-rated pacer from Bengal who has already impressed in the limited opportunities he was awarded for his state side. The tall, gangly 19-year-old hails from a sporting family: His father, Chandranath Porel, played kabaddi for Bengal while his grandfather, Subodh Chandra Porel, represented India. Porel’s consistent performances over the pacer over the past year didn’t go unnoticed, as Dravid hand-picked him. Porel reportedly has the pace to hit the mid-140 kph range.
The slow-left arm spinner from Jharkhand, like many of his teammates, also impressed during the England tour last year. Roy has represented India in the U-19 Asia Cup and is a tricky customer to bat against. His father, Sudhakar is an advocate and the cricket baton was passed on to Anukul at a young age as the former was also district level cricketer. Apart from his bowling, Roy is a handy lower-order batsman who can earn his team quick runs.
Shiva Singh is the third player from Uttar Pradesh in the side (Juyal and Mavi being the other two) and is also a left-arm spinner. Singh’s claim to fame was during a DDCA tournament in 2015, where he represented Telefunken Cricket Club. He has been a part of the side for the last two years. Last year, Singh picked up a five-wicket haul against England at Bristol. It will be interesting to see if India play with two spinners.
Height is left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh’s biggest asset, who stands at a statuesque 6’2”. Arshdeep can also clock speeds that touch the 140 kph case and has steadily gained a reputation as a consistent wicket-taker. He recently took a five-wicket haul in the Challenger Trophy for India Red and has been a consistent performer in for Punjab in district and age-group cricket.
In leg-spinner Pankaj Yadav, Jharkhand have another representative. The son of a milkman, Yadav’s career will be closely watched in the coming years. Yadav is largely unknown identity as he is yet to play a single game for India U-19.