Cricket - U19 Asia Cup champions India
One for the album: Under-19 Indian cricket team with the Asia Cup at the Dubai International Stadium on Friday. Image Credit: Twitter/ACC

Dubai: The Asian Cup champions India have a rich history of success in the Under-19 age category, but not many have graduated to move to the senior team. However, the Indian coach feels the youngsters should not be in a hurry to reach the next grade.

“They need to give themselves time to develop and learn all the nuances of the game and then they have a good chance of striking it and making it big,” said Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the former Indian left-hander, said while reacting to a question on who would go on to make it big. “I don’t want to put pressure on my boys. It’s early days. They need to take one thing at a time, one tournament at a time — Asia Cup and then the World Cup — and see what’s coming up next. Most of them have the talent to get there like Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Ravi Kumar and Raj Angad Bawa. They have it in them, so they should not hurry.”

Defending champions India were in a spot of bother after losing to Pakistan narrowly off the last ball in their Group A game, but after the reversal, there was no stopping the Men in Blue, who defeated Afghanistan in their last game to book a spot in the semi-finals.

India outplayed Bangladesh, the Under-19 World champions, in the last four before easing to a nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the final on Friday to end 2021 on a high and clinch the continental title for the eighth time.

Shaik Rasheed, the 17-year-old right-hander from Andhra, after 35 against UAE opener, had low scores against Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the No 3 batter stood up to be counted in the semi-finals scoring a match-winning unbeaten 90 and followed it up with 31 not out against Sri Lanka in the final.

V.V.S. Laxman, legendary Indian batter and the current Director of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), summed up the Indian team’s progress in the Asia Cup and feels it’s a confidence-booster for the World Cup.

“Congrats to the India U-19 side on the #AsiaCupu19 triumph! Their preparations were hit by the weather, among other things, but it’s heartening to see them improve by the game. That’s as satisfying as the title win itself. Ideal confidence-booster for the World Cup,” tweeted Laxman, who has also scored an unbeaten 151 and 77 for India Under-19 in a youth Test against an Australian team that had the likes of Michael Hussey, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds.

Congrats to the India U-19 side on the #AsiaCupu19 triumph! Their preparations were hit by the weather, among other things, but it’s heartening to see them improve by the game. That’s as satisfying as the title win itself. Ideal confidence-booster for the World Cup

- VVS Laxman, Director of National Cricket Academy

Incidentally, the Indian team for that Thiruvananthapuram Test also had the current coach Kanitkar and was captained by Sridharan Sriram, who is currently part of the Ashes-winning Australian coaching staff.

Accolades have been pouring for the victorious team that includes Sourav Ganguly, former Indian captain and President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and the Indian board secretary Jay Shah.

Ganguly also spoke on the team’s journey without much time for preparations. “Congratulations to the under 19 team for winning the Asia Cup. No cricket for 15 months since2020 for covid and to win is a commendable effort. well dne to plyrs coaches, new slctrs who hd vry ltle time to pick the best players. NCA deserves a lot of credit @BCCI,” he tweeted.

Talking about the preparations, which began a few weeks before the start of the Asia Cup, Kanitkar said the coaching staff had focussed on changing the players’ mindset to the 50-over format. “They were not used to playing as a group, some played three-day games, while some played one-day games. It’s all mixed. So the BCCI conducted the challengers and India Under-19 A and B played a triangular along with Bangladesh in Kolkata [held from November 28-December 7]. They got used to the 50-over games and it’s borne fruits,” he said while also crediting the short camp in Bengaluru.

Kanitkar spoke highly about the impact of the talk India’s ODI captain Rohit Sharma and star all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja had with the young turks before they embarked on their Asian Cup defence in UAE.

“It gave an insight into how a professional player thinks. Secondly, being able to talk to him [Rohit] and share the space with him gives everyone the confidence. So I think it really helped and thank those guys to have a chat with all of us and share their experiences,” the Indian Under-19 coach added.