Gloves Off

India U-19 World Cup winning cricket team should be celebrated, but let's not overdo the hype

The victory also proves coach Rahul Dravid’s prowess as a mentor.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   04-02-2018
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So, the Boys in Blue danced to the bhangra tune at the Bay Oval in Tauranga, New Zealand, after whipping the Aussies in the ICC under-19 World Cup final on Saturday. A bit about the venue. Located close to the beach where new year parties rock each year and tourists descend in droves, the same town hosted cricket’s junior carnival.

Cricket has grabbed headlines in the last one week at home, though, for two days the Union Budget had left the middle class despondent. Quite often, sports at large and cricket in particular provides the healing touch to us. If last week the historic win against South Africa in Johannesburg made for big news and the IPL auction made people sit up in bewilderment, Saturday’s win was refreshing.

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Till Friday night, Manjot Kalra was almost unheard of in this side led by Prithvi Shaw. On Saturday, the Delhi lad emerged hero with a timely century that made him an instant star. This is not the first time a cricketer from Delhi has made it big in an ICC under-19 World Cup. After all, Virat Kohli and Unmukt Chand had also shone on the same stage in their formative years.

A ton in the final is indeed huge and Manjot deserves encomium for his lion-hearted effort. But then, as inspirational coach Rahul Dravid quickly put things in perspective, the boys who have done well in this under19 event need to build on from here and not just be remembered for performances in New Zealand.

One cannot forget the hype which had been created over Unmukt Chand when he emerged star after the under-19 World Cup win in 2012. Call it pressure, hype or the inability to translate the performance at the senior level in domestic cricket and the IPL, there are lessons for these boys to also learn from Unmukt’s failures. So, what really is it about this junior side that made them look so good in the tournament?

In Sanskrit, Prithvi means the earth and is also the name for a goddess. Whichever way you look at it, at 17, Prithvi is the quintessential proven performer in junior ranks in Mumbai and has the temperament to play big knocks. People who have watched his batting will vouch he has the heart to stay long at the crease. How he shifts gears from here onwards will be watched very closely.

From the Indian cricket point of view, what's important is Prithvi is nurtured judiciously and one doesn’t expect him to only play the slambang stuff in the IPL and ruin his technique. For that matter, those who run cricket in Mumbai should spare him captaincy in senior formats at this stage so that he can focus on his batting. As Prithvi posed with coach Dravid and the trophy on Saturday, it made for a poignant sight.

Dravid was never a part of winning squads when he played in the World Cups and this win is important for him. As one who nurtured Rajasthan Royals in the initial days of the IPL and has also done solid work in other projects at the grassroots level, Dravid is a proven mentor. The Rs 50-lakh prize money announced by the Indian cricket board for him is chicken feed when compared with what players make at the IPL auctions.

Maybe, Dravid can even be in the running for a Dronacharya award this year. A lot of hype around the Boys in Blue had to do with robust batting displays from Punjab’s Shubman Gill. That apart, there was constant mention of the two fast bowlers – Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Navi.

Yes, Nagarkoti and Navi hit the deck hard and if speed guns were flashing that they were bowling close to 145kmph, it was not an aberration. In the initial stages of the tournament, skeptics questioned if these two fast bowlers were actually bowling that fast. Now that India have won the trophy, beating Australia twice convincingly and conquering arch-rivals Pakistan in the semi-finals, they deserve applause and celebrations.

One must not forget, though Nagarkoti and Navi were the cynosure, one young man who was in superb form with the ball –left arm spinner Anukul Roy. The boy from Samastipur in Bihar began by bowling in tennis ball cricket tournaments before moving to Jamshedpur.

That he finished with 14 wickets in the ICC under-19 World Cup is a story in itself as to how the youngster, who idolises Ravindra Jadeja, can be a good prospect for the future. Roy is also useful with the bat and has been talked about as a kid who does not mind bowling for long hours at the nets.

From a macro viewpoint, Indian junior sport is going through good times. World champions in junior hockey, winning medals in the boxing arena, a few young golfers making news and the ICC under-19 win. The key now is to not put pressure on the young shoulders. Like wine, give them time to mature.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why Virat Kohli is the greatest chaser cricket has ever seen

Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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