Siddharth Tak and Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group
India have brought home the U-19 World Cup but this does not in any way guarantee a national berth for the young stars. While India won the title third time, it is arch rival Pakistan which takes the top honors in nurturing and promoting young talent in world cricket.
A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study showed that Pakistan had the highest number of its U-19 cricketers in its national side across the three formats of the game. Pak national team hosted so far 52 players picked up from U-19 team ever since the young World Cup tournament came into existence in 1988.
Globally, low-ranked Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and West Indies followed Pakistan in giving opportunity to as many as 43, 42 and 40 players respectively in their national sides.
In contrast, top ranked teams like England, Australia, India and Sri Lanka provided less opportunites to their younger players. While England gave chance to 36 players, Australia, India and Sri Lanka follow with 33, 30 and 26 players, respectively.
South Africa, current leader in all the three formats of the game, introduced just 22 players from Under-19 World cup in its national squad. This, however, did not deter it from being recognized as a formidable team in world cricket.
Same holds true for India, who have done rather well with its trusted names, and delivered taking India to number one spot in all formats of the game at some point or the other. India, however, did not manage to hold on to the titles.
Former India all-rounder and member of selection committee in 2000 and 2001, Madan Lal warned against jumping the gun right away at young talent stating that their inclusion so early in the national squad may alter the existing dynamics. He argued, “The performance of Indian team has always been up to the mark in Under-19 World Cup. We have always focused on building the bench -strength in batting and bowling.”
Former India wicket-keeper Surinder Khanna, however, said, “We (India) don’t have many great bowlers. It would be wise to put forth young cricketers from Under-16 or 19 squad. We should give young cricketers a chance to share dressing room with great players and should also induct them into India- A team.”
Building bench strength is one thing and injecting youngsters in a big way another. As per the ZRG analysis of age of each team on the basis of last ODI played by them respectively, South Africa emerged the most ageing team followed by Pakistan.
While the average age of South Africa ODI team today is 30.42, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stood at 29.26 and 28.42 respectively. Australia and India are at 4th and 5th spot with 27.82 and 27.63 average ages respectively for their ODI teams.
In contrast West Indies, Zimbabwe, England and New Zealand have all a fairly young team. Whilst, West Indies ODI team has an average age of 27.53, Zimbabwe, England and New Zealand followed with 27.34, 26.98 and 26.97 age respectively. The average age of ODI team of Bangladesh is 25.71, which is the youngest Test nation.