India Under-19 team
India will be eager to go the distance after losing the final against Bangladesh two years ago. Image Credit: Source: ICC Twitter

Dubai: It’s time to unearth the next generation of Kohlis, Williamsons, Laras and Graeme Smiths to serve world cricket in the next decade.

The Under-19 World Cup has ensured there is no short supply of star value over the years and the next edition, which begins in the West Indies on January 14 is no different.

The Under-19 World Cup, which was introduced in 1988 and became a bi-annual affair 10 years later, is the first international exposure for the young minds on a grand scale.

It’s a make or a break situation for many and those who survive this pressure and thrive on it will go on to become the superstars of the cricket world.

Shoriful Islam-1642100442792
Shoriful Islam, who was one of the key performers for Bangladesh in the last edition, holds the World Cup trophy. Image Credit: Source: ICC Twitter

First-time hosts West Indies will take on Australia in the opener at Providence Stadium in Guyana to kick-start the tournament, which will be held under robust bio-security protocols outlined by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

India once again will be the team to beat as they have a very rich history of winning four Under-19 World Cup titles. The Men in Blue will be eager to avenge the loss they suffered at the hands of Bangladesh in the final two years ago.

India are entering the tournament on a high after having won the Asia Cup, defeating Bangladesh in the semi-finals and Sri Lanka in the final in the UAE. They suffered the lone defeat at the hands of Pakistan off the last ball.

Despite clinching four youth titles, the turnover rate for the senior team from junior ranks is not high in India. Under-19 coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, former Indian left-handed batter, said: “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.”

“They need to take one thing at a time, one tournament at a time. 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.”

Upset win

Defending champions Bangladesh are in Group A along with England, Canada and the UAE, who have qualified for the second successive World Cup and third overall.

UAE assistant coach Najeeb Amar told Gulf News: “We are confident and ready for the World Cup with the boys getting the much-needed experience in the Asia Cup last month. You can expect an upset in the World Cup.”

Sri Lanka will take on Scotland in the second match of the opening day at Georgetown. Sri Lanka will be looking for an improved showing after going out in the first round in each of the last two editions. Semi-finalists in 2016 with a squad featuring Avishka Fernando, Charith Asalanka and Wanindu Hasaranga, they have twice finished third in their group since.

Pakistan, the only team to have defended the title in 2006, will be eyeing their third title after making five finals so far.

Their biggest rivals in the group will be Afghanistan, whose best result came four years ago when they reached the semi-finals. Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea complete the Group C line-up.

Biggest names in Under-19 World Cup history

Here is a look at some of the biggest names who have taken part in this global cricketing showpiece over the years.

1988: The 1988 competition was the first of its kind and welcomed the likes of Brian Lara, Nasser Hussain, Mike Atherton and Sanath Jayasuriya to the cricketing world as Australian claimed the title. Lara captained the West Indies, who were defeated in the semi-finals by Pakistan, scoring 222 runs in the tournament, including a vital 64 against New Zealand. Pakistan themselves boasted the likes of former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who went on to captain Pakistan and score over 20,000 runs in international cricket, and Mushtaq Ahmed, who was the top wicket-taker at the tournament after snaring 19 victims.

1998: Ten years after the ICC U19 Men’s CWC’s inauguration, the 1998 tournament in South Africa showcased some more incredible West Indian talent. Chris Gayle was the top run scorer in the tournament with 364 runs, while Ramnaresh Sarwan was the joint-top wicket-taker with 16 alongside Zimbabwean Mluleki Nkala. Gayle in particular went on to have a stellar career in all formats of the game, scoring 25 One Day International centuries and playing over 100 Test Matches.

2000: The 2000 tournament in Sri Lanka saw India claim their first title and introduced the likes of Graeme Smith and Yuvraj Singh to the watching cricketing world. Singh was named Player of the Tournament, taking 12 wickets and scoring 203 runs as India beat hosts Sri Lanka by six wickets. Smith was the most prolific batter in the tournament with 348 runs, laying the foundations for an unforgettable career as he racked up 27 Test Match centuries at the top of the South African order.

2002: The 2002 tournament was played in New Zealand and saw Australia claim victory over South Africa in the final. Future Australia ace Cameron White top scored with 423 runs, while Hashim Amla – who went on to score over 50 international centuries – was in the South African side that finished second. The 2002 tournament also saw Ross Taylor for the first time, another star who went on to become an integral part of New Zealand’s team across all three formats and retired from international cricket this week.

2004: Bangladesh hosted the 2004 tournament, which saw Pakistan claim their first title by beating the West Indies in the final. Shikhar Dhawan was the top-scorer with 505 runs, in a tournament which showcased his talent that the whole world would go on to see for many years after. He was not the only future big Indian name in that side, however, as Suresh Raina also featured before becoming a key player for India in white-ball cricket.

2006: Pakistan went on to claim a second title in Colombo against their bitter rivals India in a competition that saw Eoin Morgan set the record for most runs scored overall in the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup. And three more major Indian names were part of the side that reached the final, as Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja all announced themselves on the world stage. Jadeja took three wickets in the final, while rock-solid batter Pujara was named the Player of the Tournament with 349 runs.

2008: Malaysia hosted the 2008 competition, which saw India claim the title over South Africa in the final captained by a certain Virat Kohli. It is no surprise looking back that Kohli led India to the title given everything he’s achieved since, accumulating a batting average of above 50 in all three formats with 27 Test centuries and 43 more in ODIs. Tim Southee was named Player of the Tournament with 19 wickets, functioning as a precursor for the seamer’s glittering international career for New Zealand.

2010: Australia defeated Pakistan in 2010 but looking back, this was an edition of the Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cup that introduced the cricketing world to some of England’s finest players. Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler all played in this competition, all of whom would go on to form part of the England side who thrillingly toppled New Zealand in a Super Over to lift the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2019. Josh Hazlewood was a part of the winning Australian side – taking four wickets in the final in an Australian side captained by Mitchell Marsh – while Babar Azam opened the batting for Pakistan and KL Rahul also featured for India.

2012: India clinched another title in 2012 in a tournament that announced the likes of Australian batter Travis Head to the world, who has since gone on to represent Australia at both Test and ODI level. Head recently scored a hundred against England in the current Ashes series while in the bowling department, left-arm seamer Reece Topley was the top wicket-taker after dismissing 19 victims.

2014: South Africa claimed the 2014 series, held in the UAE as their captain Aiden Markram went on to collect the Player of the Tournament award. Markram, who hit a match-winning 66 not out in the final against Pakistan, scored 370 runs across the tournament before going on to represent South Africa in all three formats. Seamer Kagiso Rabada was also a part of the Proteas side who lifted the trophy, before going on to take over 200 Test match wickets at a stunning average of just 22.54.

2016: West Indies took the title in 2016 in a competition that saw the likes of Rishabh Pant for the first time on the international stage. Pant has gone on to become one of the most explosive players in the modern game, but he was unable to negotiate a West Indian attack led by Alzarri Joseph in the final – who has since gone on to be a key source of wickets for his country. It was also the first time the cricketing world were introduced to Sam Curran, whose left-arm seam deliveries have taken many wickets in an England shirt across all three formats.

2018: India again took the 2008 title, this time from Australia, but it is a Pakistani bowler who is best remembered for coming through this competition. Shaheen Afridi, 21, one of the bright young stars of the modern day, has already played in almost 100 international matches for Pakistan and averages fewer than 25 in all three formats. And Indian batter Shubman Gill also starred at the 2018 edition of the competition, being named Player of the Tournament after scoring an impressive 372 runs.

2020: Bangladesh are the holders of the competition heading into this year’s World Cup after they beat India in the final in South Africa. Akbar Ali was named Player of the Match, while Indian Yashasvi Jaiswal was the crowned Player of the Tournament after scoring 400 runs and taking three wickets.