The U-19 World Cup has always been an exciting time for Indian cricket fans. There are always a few prospects who are ready to make the grade. While Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara have gone on to have illustrious international careers, many have found the transition from age-group to the senior team to be a daunting step, failing to live up to their billing. Even Yuvraj and Kohli didn’t have the best of starts, picking up steam later on.
There have been players who had quiet U-19 World Cup campaigns: The likes of Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Virender Sehwag are stand-out examples but went from strength-to-strength in the years that followed.
Here is a list of some of the Indian teenagers who set the stage ablaze:
Yuvraj Singh (2000)
Yuvraj Singh burst onto the scene in the U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka with a handful of match-winning performances as India lifted the trophy for the first time. The southpaw was adjudged as the Player of the Tournament. While Yuvraj missed out in the final against hosts Sri Lanka, he was instrumental in dragging his team to the final.
In a group stage match against New Zealand, Yuvraj starred with 68 runs and 4/36 with the ball. However, it was his performance against Australia in the semi-final that grabbed the headlines. The Aussies had the likes of future stars Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson in their ranks. Yuvraj set up India’s win with a blitzkrieg, smashing 58 from just 25 deliveries. It came as no surprise that the Punjab batsman earned his selection to the senior team later that year, where he would take an even more formidable Australian attack to the cleaners in the ICC Knockout tournament.
Shikhar Dhawan (2004)
Shikhar Dhawan owned the 2004 edition with some exceptional displays at the top of the order and would go on to be bedrock of his side’s batting order in many an ICC tournament. The stylish left-hander smashed 505 runs, which continues to be a record.
India crashed to a heartbreaking defeat in their first group game against South Africa but came back strongly with Dhawan leading the way. Alas, eventual winners Pakistan stopped their arch-rivals in their tracks in the semi-finals. An international debut, though, didn’t come easy for the Delhi dasher. He had to wait for another nine years.
Cheteshwar Pujara (2006)
Indian batters continued to make merry in the U-19 World Cups and this time, it was Cheteshwar Pujara to announce his name at the big stage. The Saurashtra batsman would go on to make his name as one of the leading Test batsmen of his generation in the years ahead. However, Pujara, playing as an opener, was at ease in the 50-over format amassing 349 runs as India reached the final.
India’s journey came to an anti-climatic end in the final, where they once again faced Pakistan. Ravikant Shukla’s side looked good to be champions after bundling out their opponents for just 109 with spin twins Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja picking up seven wickets between them. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s Pakistan side, inspired by Anwar Ali’s five-for, bundled out India for just 71.
Tanmay Srivastava (2008)
Tanmay Srivastava never earned an international cap nor did he have a first-class career to boast about but it was because of his runs that India went on to lift the trophy for a second time.
Some might find it strange that Virat Kohli – captaining his side admirably and making key contributions throughout – didn’t make the cut. Srivastava ended up as the tournament’s highest run-scorer. Mind you, there weren’t too many big scores in Malaysia.
Srivastava’s most important contribution came in the final, where he scored a vital 46 in the semi-final in yet another low-scoring match. Yet again, an Indian finished as a highest run-scorer.
Unmukt Chand (2012)
Unmukt Chand’s first class or Indian Premier League years, failed to live up to his billing as the next big batting talent to emerge from Delhi. Chand possessed all the shots in the book and had a cool head on his shoulders. Moreover, he asserted himself as a good leader, becoming the third Indian captain after Mohammed Kaif and Kohli to lift the title.
Chand’s style of batting even earned comparisons to the current Indian captain. The reason behind that was the final, where the boys in blue faced hosts Australia. India were in a spot of bother chasing 226 after being reduced to 97/4.
Along with Smit Patel, Chand stitched a match-winning partnership to take his side home. He finished at an unbeaten 111.
Kuldeep Yadav (2014)
A hat-trick against Scotland is not something that would instantly grab eyeballs but Kuldeep Yadav showed a sign of what he has in store in the 2014 edition. Despite having a handful of highly-rated prospects in their ranks, the Indians had a disappointing tournament.
Kuldeep became the first Indian bowler to take a hat-trick in an U-19 World Cup. Hat-tricks and Kuldeep have started to walk hand in hand these days. Recently, the wrist-spinner became the first Indian to take two hat-tricks in men’s ODIs.
Later that year, Kuldeep also showed what he could do with Kolkata Knight Riders as well but it was this tournament that went on to be a springboard for a bonafide match-winner.
Rishabh Pant (2016)
Rishabh Pant is one of the most dangerous batsmen going around. There is little that can stop the big-hitting southpaw once he gets going. The first signs of that were seen in the 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh.
Like Kuldeep, Pant may have preyed in on weaker opponents in Nepal and Namibia but when he got going, there was little that could stop him. Against Nepal, Pant scored the fastest fifty in U-19 cricket as he went on to make a 24-ball 78. India registered another massive win against Namibia, inspired by Pant’s heroics. He scored 111 on that occasion but were halted in their tracks in the final against West Indies.
Shubman Gill (2018)
Shubman Gill is now tipped to be the Next Big Thing in Indian cricket. A little-known Punjab batsman ahead of the 2018 edition, Gill upstaged his captain Prithvi Shaw and walked away with the Player of the Tournament prize.
Gill was outstanding against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Pakistan as India cruised to the final and lived up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites. Manjot Kalra (who is now in trouble for age fraud) walked away with the plaudits in the summit event against Australia by slamming a thrilling hundred but Gill had made his mark.