India started off their title defence at the Under-19 World Cup with a performance against Sri Lanka that can be described best by one word that also sums up why they are one of the favorites: matured.
Given that this is the tournament where usually unpolished gems show of their skillset, it’s quite telling that the Indian youngsters produced a team effort that was marked by good decision-making and not flashes of individual brilliance.
Here’s a look at how the XI that featured against Sri Lanka performed in the impressive 90-run win:
1. Yashasvi Jaiswal
Arguably the player most fans were looking forward to see in action in the World Cup, Jaiswal started off the tournament with a half century that oozed class but also stood out for the restraint he displayed. For someone who has a world record List A double century, it would have been easy to go wham-bham from the word go against an opponent India were unlikely to be troubled much.
But the Mumbai youngster mixed caution with the right amount fancy strokeplay. Out of the eight boundaries in his 74-ball 59, the cover drives and one wristy flick off a ball that was outside his off-stump were indicators that he is a batsman waiting to go places. The rush of blood after getting to the half century, however, is something he would look to fix in his game. When he was under complete control of his innings, he threw his wicket with a rash shot.
2. Divyansh Saxena
Jaiswal’s opening partner was the only batsman who did not look to be in the best of rhythm on Sunday. The lack of strike rotation from Jaiswal probably had a role to play but apart from a couple of elegant drives on the offside, Saxena was searching for his fluidity and perished to a rash release shot. He’d be eager to make amends against Japan.
3. Tilak Varma
With the reputation of being one of the most consistent runscorers in this Indian side, Varma looked compact at the crease and ran hard between the wickets in the partnership with captain Priyam Garg. In a left-heavy top three, Varma can be the sheet anchor to the more flamboyant openers. He’d disappointed with getting stumped by the finest of margins (failure to get the back foot back on the ground quickly) but showed he has the class to be the fulcrum of this batting line-up.
4. Priyam Garg
Being the captain of the favourites to lift the trophy is a huge responsibility and it seems to sit well on the shoulders of Priyam Garg. Having already played at the first-class level and been part of the Deodhar Trophy, Garg is a very experienced customer and he lived up to his reputation with a responsible innings. Coming into bat at a time when the Lankan bowlers seemed to be at their best rhythm, Garg started off his innings much like Virat Kohli does: running hard between the wickets. His 72-ball 56 had just two hits to the boundary as he held fort in the middle overs. He was eventually dismissed going for a big shot when acceleration was required but that’s part of the game. He also impressed with his bowling changes and field placements, not hesitant to have a slip in place even in the overs leading up to the final powerplay.
5. Dhruv Jurel
It must give Garg a great deal of confidence to have his deputy from the same state and bat next to him in the lineup because the chemistry between the two in the middle was unmissable. Realising that the side needed wickets in hand for the final 10 overs, Jurel reigned in his natural stroke-making instincts after Garg’s departure. When the bad balls came his way, he didn’t hesitate to put them away while in the final overs, he was more than happy to play second fiddle to Siddhesh Veer. Behind the stumps, he was a motivating presence but technically, still rough around the edges against spinners.
6. Siddhesh Veer
Drafted into the squad in the last minute as an injury replacement, Veer walked away with the man of the match award in India’s first game: funny how cricket works out sometimes.
Veer played undoubtedly the most flamboyant innings of the match as he took the initiative to accelerate in the final six overs, when it looked like India were going to settle for a score around 270. With scoops and reverse sweeps and slog sweeps, Veer turned the style quotient on in what was otherwise a calculated batting effort by India as he smashed 44 off 27 balls with six fours and a six.
He was also the first spinner brought on by Garg and ended with handy figures of 2/34.
A day to remember for him.
7. Shubhang Hegde
Probably the only Indian player who had a forgettable outing in Bloemfontein. Hegde did not get a chance to bat but struggled with his bowling action in the two overs he bowled. The left-arm spinner seemingly couldn’t get his grip on the ball right as he stopped at his delivery stride repeatedly and also bowled a rank short ball as well as a loopy full toss. Given the bowling options at Garg’s disposal, Hegde did not get to bowl more than two overs. He’d be looking for a fresh start in the games to come.
8. Sushant Mishra
The left-arm quick does not have the pace of his colleagues but showed the ability to swing the new ball, even if consistency eluded him. Mishra got the rewards when he attacked the stumps or bowled a tight line, while he couldn’t quite control the swing when he went fuller in length. But he can provide the ideal foil to the pace of Kartik Tyagi.
9. Kartik Tyagi
Easily the most impressive bowler on the day for India. Tyagi consistently breached the 140 kph mark in his opening spell and wasn’t afraid to use the bouncer in his later spells, bending his back in final stages of the match where he eventually got his deserved wicket with a searing bouncer. Tyagi’s tendency to walk up to the batsman and exchange words did not sit well with a couple of commentators but what’s a fast bowler without a few words in his follow through. The easy action was a treat to watch and it is no wonder he already has an IPL contract (one of the five in this side). There’s something about this guy.
10. Akash Singh
Another pacer (also with an IPL contract) who consistently hit speeds of 140 kmphs (and thereabouts). The left-arm pacer has a landing stride similar to that of Ishant Sharma and his consistency of line to the right-hand batsmen was impressive. Unlike Sushant though, he couldn’t get the ball to swing much and relied more on seam position to trouble the batsmen. Armed with an enthusiastic (sometimes over the top) energy to appeal, Singh showed he has the ingredients to be a good fast bowler. His bouncer was especially impressive as a Sri Lankan batsman found out with a blow to the helmet. He deservedly picked up a couple of wickets (2/29) and was the most economic Indian bowler on the day.
11. Ravi Bishnoi
The only Indian bowler to finish the quota of 10 overs, Bishnoi’s figures of 2/44 don’t quite do justice to how impressive he was. With a Rashid Khan type action that lends itself more to bowling googlies than conventional legspinners, Bishnoi constantly beat the bat of the Sri Lankans and sometimes even his keeper Jurel. As the tournament progresses and used pitches come into play, Bishnoi will be a bigger threat. On Sunday, when it looked like he will cruelly finish the day without a wicket, he picked up two with final two deliveries. A well deserved reward.