India's Under-19 cricketers can rewrite the record books with a win over Australia in the World Cup final at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand on Saturday.
If they beat Australia they can become the first team to win the tournament four times. Clearly, it's a big occasion and a lot of former and current Indian players are making a beeline for the opportunity to wish the young team coached by Rahul Dravid well.
If former captain Sourav Ganguly is to be believed, then the final is already for the taking for Prithvi Shaw's boys. "India will win the U-19 World Cup," Ganguly told reporters at an event in Kolkata a couple of days ago. "Shubman Gill, (Kamlesh) Nagarkoti, (Shivam) Mavi, Ishan Porel they are exceptional talent," he added.
Ganguly perhaps is encouraged by India's thumping 100-run win against Australia in their opener and then a record 203-run victory against arch-rivals Pakistan. Probably also by India's record at the venue: they have an excellent record at Bay Oval, having comfortably won all of their three Group B matches against Australia, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe here. Australia, on the other hand, have played just one game here and they were no match for the Indians in that game.
While Rohit Sharma hasn't been as prophetic as Ganguly, he expects the Indian colts, so far unbeaten in the tournament, to go all the way. “We have been following their journey throughout the Test series. I think they have played some really good cricket and we always thought that this team has something special in them. With Rahul Dravid being the coach, we know these guys will do their best,” Rohit, who is presently in South Africa with the Indian team, said.
“Every game they have played, they have destroyed the opposition and that is always good to see. Their fast bowling has been really impressive, and everybody’s been talking about their bowling.
“I just hope that they do the same in the final as well. I know it’s not going to be that easy. Winning the championship is never easy. But we wish them success and the entire Indian team is watching them play from here. On behalf of the full squad here we all wish and hope they can bring the cup back to India.”
Virat Kohli's assessment of the young team is even more important in light of the fact that he is one of only three Indian captains to have led the Under-19s to the coveted title, which came about in 2008.
"It feels amazing (to see them do well). I interacted with them before they left and it’s a lovely bunch of boys. Compared to our lot (in 2008), the confidence levels are somewhere else which is a great sign,” said Kohli.
“You’ll see many people making a strong statement for themselves much earlier than we all did. They’ve done amazingly well and the semifinal (against Pakistan) was an amazing game.
“Playing such a high pressure game (against Pakistan), they really stood up and that’s what you want to see. You want to see people standing up when it’s needed the most. I want to wish them all the very best for the final.
"We’ll all be following very keenly and we’ll be eagerly waiting to see them lift the cup again. I believe they have the talent, and they believe in that much more than I do, which I think is very, very important,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI. The final starts 6.30 am IST)