U-19 World Cup final: Saharan’s boys may have choked but keep the faith

The youth team have done much better in ICC events than their seniors in recent times

Australia defeated India by 79 runs to win its fourth U-19 World Cup crown at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday (photo: ICC)
Australia defeated India by 79 runs to win its fourth U-19 World Cup crown at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday (photo: ICC)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s not an pleasant scenario to see a bunch of talented Under-19 young talent – some of whom may go on to be the face of Indian cricket in future – being trolled mercilessly after being defeated comprehensively by Australia in the Youth World Cup last evening. No doubt, they choked and there seemed to be an eerie similarity between the manner Uday Saharan’s team caved in with that of Rohit Sharma & Co, but a kneejerk reaction is not going to solve the problem.

Well, this is not an attempt to absolve the Boys in Blue for not showing a courage of conviction on the day it mattered the most. There was little or nothing to choose between the finalists with both coming off an all-win record in six games, closely fought semi-finals and what’s more – the top three rungetters being Indians on the eve of the final in Saharan, Musheer Khan and Sachin Dash.

However, the dye seemed to have been cast no sooner Australia put 253 runs on the board after opting to bat despite overcast conditions in Benoni – the highest total in finals in the history of the event. It needed a fearless start in the powerplay but the Indian batters looked under pressure as opener Adarsh Singh tried to hold fort but kept running out of partners in regular intervals. Much like the last ICC World Cup where Virat Kohli topscored with over 700 runs, Saharan’s 397 runs from seven matches earned him the stripes as the highest scorer – but that would be no consolation for failing to win the big prize.

Saumy Kumar Pandey of India celebrates the wicket of Harjas Singh of Australia during the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup South Africa 2024 Final between India and Australia at Willowmoore Park on February 11. (photo: ICC)
Saumy Kumar Pandey of India celebrates the wicket of Harjas Singh of Australia during the ICC U19 Men's Cricket World Cup South Africa 2024 Final between India and Australia at Willowmoore Park on February 11. (photo: ICC)
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Is it, then, a Australia phobia of sorts? They are the ones to whom India fell in last three finals of ICC events – be it the World Test Championship (WTC), the men’s World Cup and now this.  The Aussies, on the other hand, now have all the recent major trophies on their shelves – champions of senior men’s 50-over World Cup, WTC, women’s T20 World Cup and the senior women’s 50-over World Cup to go with the U19 men’s World Cup.

There is no  doubt that one has to cope with pressure to win the big prize in life, but what was the cricketing logic to bill the final as a potential opportunity to ‘avenge’ the defeat that the senior team had to cop with in Ahmedabad? Much as shattering that defeat was, it was unfair to subject the youth team to that kind of pressure with hype from all quarters, including the media. The other culture of lionising the young stars rather focusing on team goals – pitching the likes of a Dash or pace bowler Raj Limbani as potential targets for IPL franchises – may also serve as a distraction.

A X post from Mohammed Kaif, who knows the taste of leading a team to U-19 World Cup (2000), is pertinent: ‘’At U-19 level team results don’t matter much. Future stars learn lesson that help them in long journey. Well played India. This time have to say Australia good on pitch, and on paper.’’


While not all of the U-19 World Cup heroes have gone on to become a Virat Kohli, Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the youth team have delivered more success on the global stage during the recent barren phase of the seniors. Of the five U-19 World Cups India have won so far, two have come in the last five years (2018, 2022) while they finished runners-up in the 2020 and current edition.

What also speaks of a high volume of talent in the pipeline is the consistency of their performance as it was their fifth straight appearance in the final. A far better ratio than the men and even women’s teams, if one is allowed comparisons.

 Give them some time and they will do India proud!

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