PART 1: The U-19 World Cup has always had a certain charm, of hitherto unknown boy bands even in their cities or states, forgetting countries, coming together to challenge for a world title so soon in their lives, as India just did for the fifth time. .
Over the years, spurred on by the big eyes of the broadcasters and the bigger marketing budgets that chased them, the tournament has also come to garner much buzz. For the 2018 edition, the station ran a campaign titled ‘Greatness Starts Here’. But does greatness really begin at the U-19 level?
the indian express analyzed the senior careers of all 178 players who have made India’s World Cup junior squads, excluding the current edition. Fifty-one of them have gone on to play for India. Even if we leave out a couple of recent squads to allow the youngsters to still find their way into senior national cricket, it still means that nearly two-thirds of India’s junior cricketers have not made it to the senior national team.
Even among the 51 who successfully graduated to seniority, 26, more than half, have played 25 or fewer international white ball games (ODI and T20I combined).
The picture is starker when it comes to Test Cricket. Nearly three-quarters of these 51 doubles internationals (37) have played 25 Test matches or fewer. In fact, 16 have not played a single event.
The absolute numbers will, of course, increase bit by bit, as some of the young U-19 world champions, such as Shubman Gill, are likely to become international regulars in the future. But every two years, a new batch of 15 is also added to the denominator, and as the data shows, an overwhelming majority fail to make the transition.
If greatness can be determined by the weight of numbers, just eight players: Virat Kohli, rohit sharma, Virender Sehwag, yuvraj singh, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja Y Harbhajan Singh – have gone on to play more than 200 white ball international matches. And only four have reached or are close to the ultimate mark of 100 events: Sehwag, Harbhajan, Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. It can be safely concluded that, short of the truly exceptional player, greatness does not begin at the U-19 World Cup.
Is junior stardom a marker of at least one stable domestic career? Again, it turns out that adult life is tough. Of the 127 junior world champions who have not represented India senior, 71 have not managed more than 50 domestic white ball matches. First-class cricket is more difficult, with 68 under 25 red ball games.
Only three of the 127, Unmukt Chand, Iqbal Abdulla and Shreevats Goswami, have participated in more than 200 domestic white ball matches or close to them. And only one, Niraj Patel of Gujarat, has managed to hit triple figures in top-class cricket.
Yash Dhull, captain of the class of 2022, was asked if there was an Unmukt Chand for a Virat Kohli. Leaving only a once-in-a-generation great like Kohli, Dhull and his crew will have achieved something if, a decade from now, they will have achieved a Chand. For now, as junior head coach S Sharath told this newspaper, “These guys will be sailing the ocean from the lake.”
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