ICC U-19 World Cup 2020: Siddhesh Veer's heroics, all-round depth and promise of pace; what we learnt from India's opener

  • Yash Jha
  • January 20th, 2020
  • 12:27:28 IST

India’s future stars are up and running in South Africa. The Indian team got its ICC Under-19 World Cup campaign underway with a cruising win over Sri Lanka in their Group A opener at Bloemfontein on Sunday.

Defending champions and favourites India lived up to their pre-tournament billing with a 90-run win – staying ahead of their Lankan counterparts from start to finish, despite losing the toss and being asked to take first strike.

Siddhesh Veer receives the Man of the Match award for his all-round heroics against Sri Lanka in U-19 World Cup opener. ICC

Siddhesh Veer receives the Man of the Match award for his all-round heroics against Sri Lanka in U-19 World Cup opener. ICC

The result means India have now won their opening game at the each of the last four U-19 World Cups.

Here's what stood out from India’s comfortable victory over Sri Lanka in their Group A clash at the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2020 on Sunday:

Contributors across the board

The pre-tournament analysis gushed praise on the strength in depth in the Indian roster, indicating that most playing XI combinations would provide serious length in both batting and bowling options. That enviable depth came to the fore in game one itself – in a total of 297/4, not one batsman touched 60; in bowling the opposition out for 207, not one bowler returned more than two wickets.

Five of the six batsmen to take strike scored more than 40 runs, and all five partnerships during the Indian innings were valuable: openers Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyaansh Saxena added 66 in 11.5 overs; Jaiswal then stitched 46 patient runs in 9.5 overs with Tilak Varma; Varma went on to add a run-a-ball 59 with captain Priyam Garg for the third wicket; that was followed by a 63-run association between Garg and ‘keeper-bat Dhruv Jurel in 10.5 overs; finally, Jurel and Siddhesh Veer provided the final flourish with a further 63 runs in 7.4 overs.

With the ball, there were three two-wicket hauls – for left-arm quick Akash Singh, off-spinner Veer and leggie Ravi Bishnoi – while three others picked up a wicket apiece.

The final act of the day would be a run-out from a direct hit (by Saxena), putting a quite perfect lid on a perfectly all-round day out in the park for India.

Veer stands out, firms up spot in XI

In a game of small-but-valuable contributions, the most telling impact from the Indian perspective was made by someone who wasn’t quite a shoo-in for the first XI on the evidence of the build-up to the World Cup.

The Indian colts had played seven official Youth ODIs since arriving in South Africa in December, and Siddhesh Veer had only been picked in two of those games. The 18-year-old performed impressively in both – 71 off 87 as an opener against New Zealand, and 48 not out off 37 from number six, plus a wicket against South Africa – but didn’t have a great time in the two warm-ups last week, returning scores of nine and four, respectively, against Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

Picked ahead of the more bowling-heavy Atharva Ankolekar, Veer grabbed his chance by the horns to be the game-changer for India. With the bat, the left-hander’s enterprising 44 not out – coming in just 27 balls, and laced with six fours and a six – was the difference between a score in the 270-275 region and the eventual total of 297. While bowling, Veer was one of the three to take two wickets, including the breakthrough of well-set opener Kamil Mishara for 39.

A worthy man-of-the-match winner, all told.

A fresh batch of pacy promise?

Recent editions of the Under-19 World Cup have been joyous for Indian cricket not only in terms of successful performances and long runs in the competition but also for the unearthing of seriously promising pace-bowling talent.

You don’t typically expect express pace, or the designation of ‘fast/fast-medium’ at the U-19 level, but that’s what you got time last time around through Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti. The 2018 squad also had Ishan Porel, a then-medium pacer who has since blossomed up the domestic ladder. From Sandeep Sharma and Rush Kalaria in 2012, to Khaleel Ahmed and Avesh Khan in 2016, this has been an encouraging and exciting fixture of U-19 World Cups over the past decade.

The batch of 2020, at its first glimpse, displayed similar potential. Left-arm quicks Sushant Mishra and Akash Singh caught the eye, with Singh being the pick of India’s bowlers on the day (9-1-29-2), and Kartik Tyagi troubled several Sri Lankan batsmen during his returns of 7.2-0-27-1.

But it wasn’t so much the figures but the signs of pace – and accuracy – that would have provided warmth to any Indians watching.

Solid start for million-dollar-man Jaiswal

Of the five World Cup squad members to already hold an IPL contract, Jaiswal was the sole million-dollar-buy, having fetched a winning bid of INR 2.4 crore from Rajasthan Royals. That, of course, was a valuation based on his serious batting chops, which he had already displayed at the senior level by becoming the youngest man to hit a List-A double century.

But even though his batting was impressive in the Group A opener, Jaiswal proved to be as important, if not more, with the ball.

Ravindu Rasantha and Kamil Mishara’s 87-run stand for the second wicket had built Sri Lanka up adequately to mount a challenge to the 298-run target in the second half of the chase. But the leg-spinner – who sees himself as much more than a part-timer – ripped a leggie’s dream through Rasantha’s defenses to provide the telling breakthrough for his team.

In the first half of the day, Jaiswal had displayed the patience required to tackle any early-morning threat at the Mangaung Oval. The 74-ball 59 was slow by his standards, but in taking India past the 20-over mark for the loss of just one wicket, the 18-year-old had nullified Sri Lanka’s toss advantage.

IPL crorepatis unfazed by spotlight

Jaiswal is one of four recent ‘crorepatis’ among the India Under-19s – Ravi Bishnoi (INR 2 crore, Kings XI Punjab), Priyam Garg (INR 1.9 crore, Sunrisers Hyderabad) and Kartik Tyagi (INR 1.3 crore, Rajasthan Royals) all pocketed bumper deals at the 2020 IPL Auction in December.

It meant that the Indian colts entered this tournament in a manner quite different to what most teens are accustomed to; you don’t often see stars, or known names, entering the fray at an Under-19 World Cup, because this is the stage where they announce their arrival to the world – yet, with four big-ticket IPL buys among a squad of only 15, the Indian unit was grabbing eyeballs even before they stepped foot in South Africa.

To this author, that presented possibly the greatest challenge to Garg and co. But at first glance, the money-rakers appear unfazed by their recently-rising stocks.

Jaiswal’s all-round show was just highlighted; Garg, the skipper, compiled a neat 56 off 72 balls before rotating his bowlers well; Bishnoi returned figures of 10-0-44-2; Tyagi was pacy in his returns of 1/27.

Updated Date: January 20, 2020 12:27:28 IST

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