Potchefstroom (South Africa): As India prepare to take on Bangladesh in the under-19 cricket World Cup her on Sunday, projections are already being made about some of the Boys in Blue.
India are firm favourites against first-timers Bangladesh in the final, which will be their seventh tilt at the title. They won it four times so far, a fact that underscores India's dominance at this age level.
The exploits of opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, spinner Ravi Bishnoi and pacer Kartik Tyagi in the tournament so far are already being talked up, projecting them as future superstars. There is some basis to this exuberance. From the India squad for the 2018 edition, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill have gone on to play for the senior team.
However, there is the cautionary example of of Unmukt Chand, who after leading India to the title in 2012, lost his way in the senior game. Success at the U-19 level doesn't guarantee success at the highest level.
Unmukt Chand was such an exciting prospect back then that he was tipped for the India captaincy sometime in the future and great exploits with the bat. He even won endorsement deals after that success in the World Cup final. But it proved to be hasty pudding. Today he struggles to make the eleven in Uttarakhand's Ranji Trophy team, having shifted base from Delhi last year.
Only the exceptionally talented like Shaw and Gill get to realise their dream as the competition is only getting tougher.
India's unhindered march to the final in this tournament, walloping Pakistan in the semi-finals, has served to underscore the fact that they are undisputed leaders at the under-19 level.
There is so much talent coming through at the teens levels that India fields a completely fresh squad in every edition of the U-19 World Cup. A cricketer is allowed to play the U-19 World Cup only once.
Success in this tournament has quite a lot to do with the fact that the India colts played about 30 or so games in different parts of the world, and a quadrangular series in South Africa to get used to the conditions before the tournament.
In the final, India run into Bangladesh, a team which too has reaped the benefits of meticulous planning since their quarterfinal loss at the 2018 edition.
Though the Priyam Garg-led Indian side got the better of them in the tri-series in England and Asia Cup last year, Bangladesh have always come up with a fight and fielding coach Sharma expects it would be no different on Sunday.
"They are a very good side. There is a lot of mutual respect. I can tell you that," he said.
This is going to be a big game for Bangladesh. If they win, it will be a sweet revenge against India, who beat them in the quarter-finals in the last edition of the Junior world cup.
"We don't want to take unwanted pressure. India is a very good side. We have to play our 'A' game and do well in all three departments. Our fans are very passionate about cricket. I want to tell them, keep supporting us," said Bangladesh skipper Akbar Ali after the semifinal win over New Zealand....