India’s Under-19 squad clinched their fourth World Cup title on Saturday much to the delight of Indian fans around the world.

Given the recent decision to not have a player take part in more than one Under-19 World Cup, it’ll be the last appearance at a World Cup event for most of the squad. Coach Rahul Dravid believes the U-19 level is about giving exposure and experience to the boys... to make them ready for senior cricket.

Since the U-19 World Cup 1998, 117 Indian players (not including the 2018 squad) managed to make the cut into the under-19 squad, but only 34 have actually gone onto play for India. Only a small fraction of those players have actually gone on to have fledgling international careers.

Some of these squads have produced some of India’s greatest players in recent history, which includes Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and more recently Virat Kohli.

Although it’s been a feeder system for the senior team, only a section of the players make it to the highest level. Rahul Dravid noted on Monday how the system can actually fail despite the success.

“The challenge and the hard work really start from here, we had couple of conversations on it. When we were there they showed a rerun of the 2012 finals and I started checking upon a few things. It is interesting; the result of the final is India beat Australia but six years down the line only one of those boys has played for India while 5-6 of them went on to play for Australia. Six years down the line, only the debatable point is that who won that final?,” he said at a press conference after the team came back to India.

Even when players do make it to the national side, a small fraction of them actually hang onto their position. Of the 34 players who made it, only 14 have played more than 50 international matches.

Others wait their entire careers to actually play for India. Stuart Binny and Faiz Fazal took twelve years to make their first team debut after playing for the under-19 squad.

So even though the likes of Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill are expected to play for India, they should know that the ones who graduate make up a very small club. Going up from junior cricket to the senior level where you battle grizzled veterans calls for a consistency that can often take a mental and physical toll on players – some settle, some persevere and only a very few ever really find their feet at the highest level.

As Dravid has been mentioned at almost every press conference, the journey of this bunch of U-19 players is just beginning. In it’s own way, it is fascinating to track and see where they will end up.