New Delhi: An upbeat Indian Under-19 team would like to repeat the feat achieved by the Virat Kohli-led Indian team four years back when they take on defending champions Australia in the final of Under-19 World Cup at Townsville on Sunday.
It is a huge match for the Indian boys considering the fact that a good show in this event helps players getting to the limelight in the international arena. There were numerous players who got selected in the Indian cricket team in the past on the back of their under-19 performances. Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Virat Kohli, Parthiv Patel, Ajay Ratra, Reetinder Singh Sodhi -all got the India call up after their success at under-19 World Cup.
Despite losing the very first match against West Indies, Indian under-19 team, led by the talented Delhi batsman Unmukt Chand, fought back really well since then and beat every opponent that came their way.
Australia, on the other hand, looked to be the most balanced and in-form team as they are yet to lose a match in the event.
While it was a cakewalk for the Australian colts, India boys had to fight really hard to reach the finals. After their first loss to West Indies, not many thought they would reach the summit clash. But Indian players showed tremendous fighting skills and nerves to reach the finals.
They had to fight for every win they registered on their way to the final. India stole a cliff-hanger against Pakistan in the quarter-final by just one wicket. Again in the semi-final, India beat New Zealand by only 9 runs.
Despite boasting of some of the talented batsmen in the form of skipper Unmukt Chand, Vijay Zol and Baba Aparajith, Indian batting has been a huge disappointment in the tournament so far. But every time the batsmen failed, the bowlers stood up for them. Apart from the first match against West Indies where Indian bowlers could not defend 166, they have been perfect in all the matches.
Indian batting was so horrible that they put on more than 250 only once in the tournament. They posted 261/6 against Zimbabwe in their group match. Even against a lowly Papua New Guinea, India were bowled out for a meagre 204. Though they successfully defended the score, it only highlighted the vulnerability in their batting.
Against Pakistan in quarter-finals, India almost lost the match while chasing a paltry 136. Against New Zealand in the semi-finals, they posted 209 runs on the board which was almost chased down by the oppositions.
One statistic will be enough to sum up the pathetic Indian batting. There is no Indian batsman in the top 20 run-getters list in the tournament. The highest run-scorer for India is opener Prashant Chopra who amassed 172 runs from the five matches. The most promising batting star Unmukt Chand scored 135 in five matches, 78 being his highest against Zimbabwe.
Only middle-order batsman Baba Aparajith was consistent throughout the tournament. Though he made just 135 runs in five matches, most of these runs came in crunch situations. His gritty half-century helped India win a tense match against Pakistan in the quarter-finals. Apart from his runs, his part-time off-spin also fetched 4 wickets. That he has also taken 6 catches highlights his importance in the team.
But every time it was the Indian bowling and superb fielding which won them the tight matches. Paceman Sandeep Sharma (8 wickets), Ravikant Singh (11 wickets), Kamal Passi (10 wickets) have all bowled really well.
The spinners, led by left-armer Harmeet Singh also bowled tightly in the middle-overs to check the scoring rates.
Australia, meanwhile, would expect their skipper William Bosisto and Cameron Bancroft to put up a huge total in the all important final match. Like the Indians, the Australian batsmen are yet to fire in the tournament. A big hundred from any of them is due in the final.
Indian origin fast bowler Gurinder Sandhu and off-spinner Ashton Turner are two of the bowlers Indian batsmen would be wary of.
Road to the finals
Lost to West Indies by four wickets
Beat Zimbabwe by 63 runs
Beat Papua New Guinea by 107 runs
Beat Pakistan by one wicket in the
Beat New Zealand by nine runs
Beat England by six wickets
Beat Nepal by 212 runs
Beat Ireland by six wickets
Beat Bangladesh by five wickets
Beat South Africa by four wickets
India (probable): 1 Unmukt Chand (capt), 2 Prashant Chopra, 3 Baba Aparajith, 4 Hanuma Vihari, 5 Vijay Zol, 6 Akshdeep Nath, 7 Smit Patel (wk), 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Kamal Passi, 10 Ravikant Singh, 11 Sandeep Sharma.
Australia (probable): 1 Cameron Bancroft, 2 Jimmy Peirson (wk), 3 Kurtis Patterson, 4 Meyrick Buchanan, 5 William Bosisto (capt), 6 Travis Head, 7 Ashton Turner, 8 Mark Steketee, 9 Joel Paris, 10 Gurinder Sandhu, 11 Alex Gregory.
Match starts at 5:00 AM India time on Sunday