India regained the ICC U-19 World Cup with an emphatic eight-wicket win over Australia in the final at Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, on Saturday. It capped a dream campaign for the Indians led by Prithvi Shaw and coached by Rahul Dravid.
The Indians were easily the most consistent side in the competition, winning all their six matches by big margins. They topped their group with convincing wins over Australia, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe before crushing Bangladesh by 131 runs in the quarterfinals. India outplayed Pakistan by 203 runs in a lopsided semifinals before getting the better of the Aussies in the title clash.
There were plenty of gains for India from the tournament. Openers Shaw and Manjot Kalra were consistency personified. No. 3 Shubman Gill struck a brilliant unbeaten 102 against Pakistan in the semifinal while it was Kalra's turn to be the hero in the final as he smashed an unbeaten 102, which helped India clinch the cup.
The Indian pace trio of Shivam Mavi, Ishan Porel and Kamlesh Nagarkoti turned the heads with their ability to bowl well in excess of 140 kmph. Porel broke the back of Pakistan in their chase, while Nagarkoti captured the attention of one and all with his speed and accuracy. Left-arm spinner Anukul Roy and Shiva Singh too were impressive and picked up crucial wickets.
The Indian colts were simply stunning with their catching and ground fielding. The sheer athleticism displayed by the youngsters was a treat to watch.
Dravid deserves special praise for guiding the youngsters and making them a champion unit. The Indians had lost to the West Indies in the final of the last edition in Bangladesh. A depleted Indian outfit had suffered shock defeats at the hands of Nepal and Bangladesh in the U-19 Asia Cup in Malaysia last November and crashed out in the group stage.
The decision to appoint Shaw, who is a regular in the Mumbai Ranji team, as captain proved to be a masterstroke. Dravid made sure the boys were focused on the World Cup amid the excitement over last week's IPL player auction. His statement that the auction is an annual affair, while the World Cup doesn't come every year was just an indication of how he wanted his boys to be on top of their game in the business end of the competition.
Pat for BCCI
The Indian colts lifted the title for a record fourth time and one needs to appreciate the efforts put in by the BCCI to promote age-level group cricket in the country. The world-class facilities and the systems in place ensure that the Indian colts are in a different league altogether.
The triumph underlies the fact that the future of Indian cricket is in safe hands and it is up to these players to stay rooted and go on to achieve greater heights with the senior team.