One of the major talking points from India’s victorious campaign at the U-19 World Cup was the performance of their pace battery.

Fast bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi impressed early on as they clocked speeds of around 145 kph in the first game of the tournament. While Ishan Porel doesn’t bowl with the same pace, his four-fer in the semi-final against Pakistan broke the back of their batting.

Even as the batting order dominated opposition bowlers, it was the pacers with their gnawing pace and swing that gave India an edge over their opponents through the tournament.

While spinners like Anukul Roy did play more than just a contributing role, it was the pacers who really took the attack to the opposition consistently through the tournament.

“We hear people say that our batsmen are on the receiving end. Now, here is a bunch of fast bowlers who can give it back,” said Paras Mhambrey as he addressed the media after the team’s arrival in Mumbai on Monday.

“It was just wonderful to see them operate. When you go into game with such kind of a quality bowling attack, you’re confident, it becomes easier to challenge the opposition,” added Mhambrey.

Despite the tilt towards pace, India’s pacers were largely economical through the tournament. They used the conditions well and executed plans that were picked up in training, said Mhambrey.

In U-19 World Cup

  • Kamlesh Nagarkoti (Right-arm fast)Matches: 6; Maidens: 6; Wickets: 9; Best: 3/18; Average 16.00; Econ: 4.11
  • Shivam Mavi (Right-arm fast medium)Matches: 6; Maidens: 7; Wickets: 9; Best: 3/45; Average: 18.88; Econ: 4.12. 
  • Ishan Porel (Right-arm medium) Matches: 4; Maidens 5; Wickets: 6; Best: 4/17; Average 13.16; Econ: 3.56.    

Bowling in tandem

Nagarkoti and Mavi’s partnership proved to be a success for India. Their fiery spell of fast bowling in the opener against a formidable Australian outfit set up the tournament well for India.

“Paras Sir asked us to focus on accuracy,” said Mavi. “He tried to explain to us that despite pace there is a chance of leaking runs. With pace, control is vital. So Kamlesh and I would work in pairs. If he was going for the wickets, I would try and contain the batsmen, look to get as many dot balls as possible.”

The partnership saw them take some crucial scalps through the tournament, even as the runs conceded per wicket remained minimal. Porel’s injury in the first game did cause a flutter, but his recovery and performance in the semi-final showcased his resilience.

Kamlesh Nagarkoti clocked 146 kph during the U-19 World Cup (Image: ICC)

Mhambrey, who till last year was coach of the Vidarbha Ranji Trophy team, credited the pacers, especially, for not getting ahead of themselves despite the helpful conditions.

Throughout the tournament, the pacers used the yorkers well. They used the short deliveries well and kept bowling a tight line just outside the off-stump consistently. But it was the speed that really caused upheaval among the opposition ranks.

“I did not expect bowling that fast,” said Nagarkoti. “This was the second time that I have managed to clock such a high speed. I had done it once in England, so this was the second time.”

Right preparation

As is the trend that’s seeping through India cricket, these youngsters too are fitness conscious and it is their work on strengthening that has aided their desire of bowling fast.

“We monitored them for a year and a half. There was a structure in place with the National Cricket Academy. Prior to the tournament, we took videos of the matches they played till then,” revealed Mhambrey.

“What really helped was the presence of Anand Date as fitness trainer. We shortlisted a few guys that we thought would be the fast bowlers. Then, we monitored their work load.

We wanted to be at their peak fitness wise in time for the tournament,” he added.

Ahead of the tournament, the support staff chose to hold a camp in Bengaluru. Conditions were created so they would mimic those prevalent in New Zealand.

“To achieve any result you need a process in place,” said Mhambrey. “We wanted the batsmen and bowlers to get accustomed to the conditions, the bounce and pace of the track.

“They were basically bowler-friendly wickets. We wanted to know what the targets would be for batsmen on such wickets. Even for bowlers, such pitches are not always easy. There’s pace and bounce in the wicket. Sometimes a bowler can get carried away trying to bowl too fast,” added Mhambrey.

In New Zealand, all this came together seamlessly. The pacers bowled well in tandem and made a major impact on proceedings, with the fielders and the batsmen also complementing well, the triumph was clinical on all fronts.

IPL stint

A stint in the IPL awaits these youngsters in the coming days. The hype of being U-19 champions is likely to provider a stiffer challenge with an even larger audience tuning into see how they perform.

Mhambrey, though, feels, these boys are matured beyond their years.

Ishan Porel's four-fer in the semi-final against Pakistan broke the back of their batting (Image: ICC)

“The IPL auction was a challenging phase for us [support staff],” he said. “But they showed maturity when they went on the field after that.

“Obviously it is a happy moment for them. The IPL is a big tournament, everyone wants to play in such a tournament. Its not just about the money or the hype. They are aware that its an opportunity to rub shoulders with the top bowlers and batsmen of the world. Pick heads of the top coaches of the world. I think they have cool head on their shoulders,” he added.

Mhambrey, however, feels there is still time before his wards can be termed a finished product.

“They are a little far away,” he said. “Yes, they have done well at the U-19 level. Yes, they have hit the certain speeds levels. But if you look at the challenges at the first class level, the quality of batting, its going to be a while for them.

“They need to go through the first class grind. They’ll experience failures and successes and they’ll eventually evaluate themselves.

“It’s important as a fast bowler, it’s not just the ability to bowl fast. It is also about understanding how to bowl, understanding your body, the conditions, the wicket. I think its too early for me to say they are ready,” he added.