The ICC Under-19 World Cup is the best place to look for tomorrow's stars of cricket. Featuring the best young talents from all the nations, the competition gives you a glimpse of the future of cricket. From Yuvraj Singh to Michael Clarke, many future cricketing greats were first blooded at the Under-19 World Cup.
India has found more success at the U-19 level than it has at the senior level, with three wins out of four final appearances. As India U-19, in the able hands of Rahul Dravid, gear up for a fifth final against a spirited West Indies, we take a look at all of India's U-19 World Cup exploits where they reached the very last hurdle.
2000 U-19 World Cup, Sri Lanka
It was the first final India had reached in the U-19 World Cup since its inception in 1988, and under the captaincy of Mohammad Kaif, the men in blue steamrolled their way to win the trophy. India was undefeated throughout, and such was the dominance that India defeated Australia by 170 runs in the semi-final. India went on to defeat hosts Sri Lanka in the final by six wickets, upsetting the home crowd. India were deserved champions.
And guess who was the Man of the Series? None other than Yuvraj Singh - 2011 was not the first World Cup he was adjudged the best player of the tournament. The man scored 203 runs in 8 matches with a then unheard of strike rate of 103.57 and also took 12 wickets — an all-round performance. It was prophetic, as Yuvi went on to do the same in 2011 helping India in bringing home the big one.
It wasn't just Yuvraj and Kaif who came out of the 2000 U-19 World Cup and become future stalwarts of their respective senior sides. Graeme Smith was the highest scorer of the tournament and he went on to captain South Africa. Michael Clarke was there, another future captain. Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson, Ian Bell, the McCullum brothers — Brendon and Nathan, Shoaib Malik, Danesh Kaneria and many more made their bones in the tournament. It's comforting to know that a crop of today's cricketing icons, most of whom have retired and some are not too far away from retirement, have a piece of shared history.
2006 U-19 World Cup, Sri Lanka
Six years later the U-19 World Cup once again came to Sri Lanka and India were again in the final against familiar foes Pakistan. But history didn't repeat itself this time and India lost to Pakistan by 38 runs. It was a thrilling match. Pakistan, batting first, had just posed a meager 110. But their pace attack ripped apart the Indian top order. India were six down for just nine runs and were bundled out for 71. Pakistan became the first team to register back to back wins in the tournament. They had defeated West Indies in the 2004 final.
This World Cup too featured many big names of today. Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Chateshwar Pujara, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shakib Al Hasan, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (he represented Ireland but today captains the England limited overs side), Martin Guptill, Tim Southee, Angelo Matthews, Sunil Narine, Kieran Pollard among others.
Watch the spectacular display of swing bowling from Pakistan here:
2008 U-19 World Cup, Malaysia
India, under the leadership of a certain Virat Kohli and Dave Whatmore as coach, made into back to back finals of the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 in Malaysia. This time South Africa, led by Wayne Parnell, stood in the way of glory. India, who had defeated South Africa in the group stage of the tournament, emerged victors in the final too, winning by 12 runs after Duckworth-Lewis was imposed.
Parnell had won the toss and chose to bowl. A brilliant South African bowling performance, led by captain Parnell himself, saw India bowled out for 159. But more drama followed as South Africa lost three early wickets after coming out to bat and then the rain gods took over. After the showers subsided, the revised target for the Proteas was 116 in 25 overs. But they fell short.
Virat Kohli had tasted his first major success and proved his leadership qualities, which are coming quite handy these days to the Indian senior side. Apart from Kohli, Parnell, and Jadeja, the late Phil Hughes, Josh Hazlewood, James Faulkner, Steve Smith, Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Corey Anderson, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Amir, Dinesh Chandimal, Darren Bravo featured in the tournament. Find all these names familiar?
Watch the winning moment and Virat Kohli's delirious celebration (No surprises there!)
2012 U-19 World Cup, Australia
This one must be easy to recollect. India, under Unmukt Chand, went Down Under and came back as Under-19 champions. India defeated the hosts by six wickets in the final, with Chand scoring 111 not-out in 130 balls — a match winning innings.
Australia, batting first, posted 225, thanks to captain William Bosisto's 87 not-out. But the Indian captain bettered him with a brilliant knock and India reached the target in 47.4 overs and completed their third U-19 World Cup win.
The ones who starred in the tournament are still too young and have a bright future ahead of them. Hopefully they'll go ahead and script stories for themselves in the future, just like Yuvraj, Kohli, Smith, Warner, Raina, and many more did.
Some have already started their journeys with the senior team. Joel Paris, Travis Head, Kraigg Brathwaite, Quinton de Kock and Ish Sodhi have a made a name for themselves.
The 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh will throw up names too. People may not know them all too well now (a few have already caused a stir - like Sarfaraz Khan for instance, thanks to IPL), but in a few years they'll be household names - watch out for Rishabh Pant.
In a way, the U-19 World Cup let's you peek into the future, and the good thing is, it rarely ever disappoints.