The 2018 edition of the ICC U-19 World Cup kicks off in a little over a week now, with New Zealand playing host this year. The event, that paves way for many a aspiring cricketer to the highest level of the game, will take place between 13 January and 3 February, with 16 teams in the fray.
India, captained by domestic sensation Prithvi Shaw, will hope to go one step further this time after stumbling in the final against the West Indies in the 2016 edition. Under the tutelage of Rahul Dravid, whose influence on Indian cricket by virtue of coaching the under-19 and 'A' teams has already been a positive one, the colts will hope to lift the trophy for a record fourth time.
The event has led to the discovery of quite a few international stars, with the current No 1 Test team being no exception in this regard. Just the last edition saw names such as Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar and Ishan Kishan stand out, with the first two going on to make their debuts in India colours not long after.
Let us revisit some of the other notable discoveries for Indian cricket from across the history of the U-19 World Cup, arranged in chronological order of the tournament editions in which they appeared:
Virender Sehwag (1998): The dashing opener from Delhi was part of the 1998 campaign that took place in South Africa, with the Indians could only make it to the Super League. It was a forgettable tournament for the 'Nawab of Najafgarh', as he could only collect 76 runs at a measly average of 12.66 with a highest score of 38.
However, there would be less than a handful from a pool of a billion-plus Indians who wouldn’t be aware of his accomplishments at the senior level — being the only Indian cricketer with two triple tons and becoming one of its greatest openers of all time, forming successful partnerships with Sachin Tendulkar in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and Gautam Gambhir in Tests.
Harbhajan Singh (1998): Appearing in the same edition of the U-19 World Cup as Sehwag, ‘Bhajji’ fared relatively better in the squad that eventually gave six international cricketers to the Indian team. He collected eight wickets in the tournament at a healthy average of 21.12. While making his international debut barely a month after the tournament, it was in the 2001 edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in which he tasted glory for the first time.
The historic series saw him become the first Indian cricketer to achieve a Test hat-trick, a feat that made him an integral member of the Indian team for more than a decade. As of 2017, he is the third-highest wicket-taker among Indians in Tests with 417 scalps.
Mohammad Kaif (1998, 2000): The first of the two names in this list to have appeared in two U-19 World Cups, Kaif made his presence felt in both tournaments. His key take away from the 1998 edition was scoring 251 runs at a solid average of 62.75, including three half-centuries.
In 2000, he was elevated to captain of the squad that also included future India teammate Yuvraj Singh. Much like Yuvraj, he couldn’t quite establish himself in whites, but became an asset for the Indians in the ODIs. A reliable middle-order batsman and a superb fielder, he became a mainstay during the Sourav Ganguly-era of Indian cricket, appearing in 125 ODIs.
Yuvraj Singh (2000): Yuvraj was among the standout players in the 2000 edition of the tournament, which saw the Indians win their first-ever title, hitting two half-centuries as well as collecting 12 wickets at a stunning average of 11.50. His all-round performance won him 'Player of the Series' award. Yuvraj entered the senior dressing room later that year during the ICC Knockout Tournament, scoring a match-winning 84 in a crunch game against Australia.
While he may not have fulfilled his potential in the Test format, Yuvraj went on to become one of India’s greatest limited-overs batsmen. Some of his most memorable moments include the crucial 69 in the 2002 Natwest Trophy final, the six sixes off Stuart Broad in the 2007 World T20 as well his winning the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award in the 2011 World Cup.
Shikhar Dhawan (2004): The Delhi batsman was part of the 2004 squad, one that was packed with as many as nine future international cricketers. Dhawan’s run in that tournament cannot be described as anything short of incredible. He first established his love for ICC tournaments by finishing as the highest run-getter with 505 runs at an average of 84.16, including three centuries and a half-century.
However, he wasn’t quite fast-tracked into international cricket despite such a run. He had to wait for six years to make his international debut, and nine to truly establish himself as a regular in the team across formats. Today, the dashing batsman is among India’s most reliable opening options, especially with Rohit Sharma in white-ball cricket.
Suresh Raina (2004): Dhawan’s teammate in the 2004 tournament, he had an impressive run with a tally of 247 runs (average 35.28), including three half-centuries. While his scoring rate was nowhere close to that of Dhawan, he earned a call-up into the senior team much earlier, getting picked for the 2005 tri-series in Sri Lanka.
Leaving his problems against the short-ball aside, Raina made his mark as a valuable middle-order batsman with the ability to get important breakthroughs with the ball, not to forget his sharp fielding skills. He also went on to become a core member of the Chennai Super Kings outfit in the Indian Premier League (IPL) under the leadership of MS Dhoni.
Cheteshwar Pujara (2006): The Saurashtra batsman was part of the squad in 2006 — the year that saw India fail to chase down a lowly target set by Pakistan in the summit clash. In that tournament, Pujara gave a fair indicator of the kind of consistency that he would go on to show in international cricket, scoring 349 runs at an average of 116.33, including an unbeaten 129 against England.
However, it would be the Test format in which he would go on to be considered a specialist. A batsman who proved himself on tough conditions such as South Africa and New Zealand, Pujara is currently India’s automatic choice for the No 3 position in the Test team.
Rohit Sharma (2006): The ‘Hitman’ played alongside Pujara in 2006, a tournament in which he got off to a slow start with the bat, but eventually caught up to finish with 205 runs at an average of 41, including three fifties. He made his ODI and T20I debuts the very next year, featuring in India’s victorious run in the inaugural World T20 that took place in South Africa.
The Mumbai batsman had long been backed by both Dhoni and Virat Kohli despite bouts of lean form, with the support eventually paying off as he went on smash one record after another in white-ball cricket, including a breathtaking 264 against Sri Lanka — the highest ODI individual score. As of today, the Mumbai Indians captain is the only batsman in the world with multiple ODI double-tons (3) and boasts of the joint-fastest ton in T20I cricket alongside South Africa's David Miller.
Virat Kohli (2008): The current India captain highlighted his leadership skills back in the 2008 edition, in which he led the team to their second title. His form with the bat, though pale by his current standards, was positive as he collected 235 runs at 47, including a century.
Few would have imagined the levels of superstardom that Kohli would go on to achieve in international cricket. After making his international debut against Sri Lanka later that year, and notching up his first century against the same side at the Eden Gardens a year later, he soon established himself as a run-machine in the side. Among his most remarkable knocks were his 86-ball 133 against the Lankans in the tri-series in Australia, as well as his 183 against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup.
Aside from setting off a revolution with his captaincy, infusing aggression and high fitness levels like never before, Kohli is arguably the finest modern-day limited-overs batsman alongside AB de Villiers. His sensational run in the years 2016 and 2017, finishing as the highest ODI run-getter in the latter, has further cemented his status as a superstar of this game.
Indian fans currently await their team's fate in the upcoming overseas assignments to see if Kohli and Co establishes itself as the nation's greatest ever.
Ravindra Jadeja (2006, 2008): The other player in this list to have made two U-19 World Cup appearances, Jadeja experienced more success with the ball than he did with the bat in the two editions — collecting a total of 14 wickets at an average of 13.57. He did shine with the bat, though in domestic cricket as he went on to become the only Indian batsman with three first-class triple-centuries.
While he made himself an integral part of the Dhoni-led CSK team, it was only after his spectacular run in the 2015 home Test series against South Africa in which he established himself as a leading bowling all-rounder in the Indian team, forming a deadly partnership with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, with whom he often bowls long, destructive spells in tandem.