Mirpur: A formidable India U-19 team coached by the legendary Rahul Dravid start as overwhelming favourites against minnows Ireland in their opening Group D league match of the ICC U-19 World Cup, here on Thursday.
Being three-time champions, the tournament has always helped India unearth raw talent who have gone on to become big stars in the future. Whether it is Yuvraj Singh or India's current No. 1 batsman Virat Kohli, India have been lucky in terms of tapping quality talent from the tournament.
It's no different this time round as the likes of Ishan Kishan, Risabh Pant, Avesh Khan would like to showcase their talent under the able guidance of Dravid, in an event which is widely televised.
The absence of Australia, who pulled out citing security reasons, increase India's chances by manifold as the cricket-crazy nation always has had a fair chance in the age-group events.
The strength of the Indian team can be gauged by the fact that five of their players have already played first-class cricket and one has played T20 cricket for the senior state team.
Among the lot, the stockily built Sarfaraz Khan is already a household name, courtesy his exploits for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL. This is Sarfaraz's second U-19 World Cup and he has played Ranji Trophy for Uttar Pradesh.
Left-handed opener Risabh Pant is a player who would be closely watched by the IPL teams before they go into auction on February 6. Risabh, who has already played for Delhi, has done well during the U-19 season for India and his performance will be vital to the team's chances in the tournament.
Skipper Ishan Kishan has also played first-class cricket for Jharkhand and recently shared the dressing room with India limited-over skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni while playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Pacer Avesh Khan and batsman Ricky Bhui have also played the last edition of the tournament, which gives them an upperhand over their competitors.
Australia's replacement team Ireland do not have any cricketer, who have played senior level representative cricket with youngest cricketer being 15-year-old Indian origin leg-spinner Varun Chopra.