Friday, March 1, 2024

5 Indian players who lost an U19 World Cup final but went on to become superstars ft. Rohit Sharma

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With just two wickets left and an impossible 103 runs needed to win the 2024 Under-19 World Cup final on Sunday, India’s Naman Tiwari told his batting partner, Murugan Abhishek, that even if they lose, they won’t go back without learning.

Australia eventually lifted the title, registering a 79-run victory. But Tiwari’s words were picked up on the stump mic and went viral on social media. Like him, Indian fans also seemed to understand that the World Cup at this level wasn’t about wins or losses but about lessons that would help the boys in their senior careers.

And this being India’s fourth loss in an Under-19 World Cup final (from nine appearances, which is also a record) there have been many who lost the big match but went on to become superstars. Five of them are listed here:

#5 Yashasvi Jaiswal

India’s Test opener and latest double-centurion Yashasvi Jaiswal’s story is now known as one of the most inspiring ones in all of cricket.

After migrating from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai and just about making do with limited means, the 2020 Under-19 World Cup in South Africa was his first big break. And the left-hander didn’t fail to make an impression.

Though India lost the final to Bangladesh, Jaiswal scored 400 runs in six matches at an average of 133.33 and scalped three wickets to win Player of the Series.

Soon after, he was picked up by the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL where he improved season by season and became one of the best powerplay batters. In 2023, he enhanced his image as a consistent basher which earned him debuts in Tests and T20Is, where he has very much cemented his position.

Tilak Verma, Ravi Bishnoi, and Dhruv Jurel were from the 2020 batch too. While Bishnoi is India’s lead leg-spinner in T20Is, Verma has also made his international debut and Jurel could feature with Jaiswal in India’s third Test against England.

#4 Rishabh Pant

The last-over thriller defeat to the West Indies in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup final proved to be a cauldron for the birth of many gems of Indian cricket. Most players in that 11 are now part of IPL teams or on the fringes of national selection.

But the biggest star to come out of that side was wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant. The dashing left-handed opener was India’s second-highest run-scorer after Sarfaraz Khan with 267 runs at 44.5. His strike rate of 104.29 was the best among the top 15 run-scorers in the competition and, clearly, a sign of things to come.

Like Jaiswal, Pant found a direct entry into the IPL with the Delhi Capitals where his ability to look unfazed against the best international bowlers got him the India call-up in 2017. In the next five years, he struggled and awed the audiences in equal parts, eventually becoming the hero of hearts in Tests with the Gabba win.

His accident late in December 2022 has kept him out of action since and now he’s expected to make a comeback in IPL 2024. If he continues where he left off, Pant might soon be in talks about becoming the next Indian captain, at least in Tests.

#3 Cheteshwar Pujara

The next three players are from the same batch – 2006 – which was the first time India lost the final of an edition of the Under-19 World Cup against rivals Pakistan.

It was as amusing a final as they come. Pakistan, with the likes of Sarfaraz Ahmed and Imad Wasim, got bowled out for a paltry 109 in the first innings of the 50-over game. It looked like India, with an in-form batting lineup, would chase it down in the powerplay itself but they lost six wickets for nine runs and the rest for 71.

Cheteshwar Pujara was the second wicket to fall, on the first ball of the second over. However, the right-hander ended the World Cup as the top run-scorer with 349 runs at an average of 116.33 and also won Player of the Tournament.

Four years later, he made his Test debut against Australia and scored a half-century, and never looked back.

Thirteen years on, he’s no longer in the team but has 7195 Test runs to his name from 103 matches at 43.60, including many a match-winning performance around the world. He’s now regarded as one of the best number threes in Indian Test history and the heir to Rahul Dravid’s ‘wall’ moniker.

#2 Ravindra Jadeja

On a pitch that had something to keep every kind of bowler interested, Ravindra Jadeja took three wickets for 16 runs. He was the second-highest wicket-taker behind Piyush Chawla who snapped up 4/8 and, despite having a short career, won the 2011 World Cup at home with the senior team.

This tournament was the start of Jadeja’s journey from being a ‘bits and pieces’ cricketer to a proper all-rounder for India. Rajasthan Royals picked him up for the inaugural edition of the IPL in 2008 where he played mostly as a batter, which gave him entry into India’s ODI and T20I teams in 2009.

He remained in and out of the team for the next four years and eventually solidified his place during the 2013 Champions Trophy as an economical and wicket-taking orthodox spinner across formats with a bit of batting ability.

More work on his batting, a development of unbelievable consistency in his bowling, and unmatched athleticism in the field made him one of the best Test all-rounders in the world. He now has over 6000 runs and 500 wickets for India.

#1 Rohit Sharma

A bit contrasting to Jadeja, Rohit Sharma played as an all-rounder in the Under-19 World Cup and even picked up a wicket in the final with his off-spin. However, batting at No.3, he got out for four. Overall, he was India’s third-best batter in the tournament with 205 runs at 41.

It was impressive enough for MS Dhoni to include him in his team for the 2007 T20 World Cup, which India won as well. Deccan Chargers signed him in the IPL in 2008 where, again, he played as an all-rounder but by the time he went to the Mumbai Indians in 2010, an injury had forced him to predominantly be a batter.

Later, Dhoni pushed him from the middle order to the top, where he became one of the best in the world in white-ball cricket with three ODI double centuries and five T20I centuries, and created the image of one of the most feared big-hitters in the world.

In the second half of his career, he was made captain across formats. Last year, he led India to the final of the 2023 World Cup and is now expected to lead in the 2024 T20 World Cup too. Currently, he’s captaining India in the Test series against England where he’s also the senior-most batter.

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