In the 38th over of India’s run chase in the U-19 World Cup final on Sunday, as the five-time champions were hurtling towards defeat, Naman Tiwari was heard on the stump mic telling Abhishek Murugan: “Yaad rakhna, haarenge par seekh ke jaayenge (Remember, we will lose but will learn and go back).”
As Tiwari seems to have grasped, the U-19 platform is essentially about making an impression and imbibing lessons that serve well in the long run. A look at five players who were most impressive during the three-week-long U-19 World Cup.
Uday Saharan (India)
The India skipper finished as the leading run-getter of the tournament — 397 runs in seven innings at 56.71. More than the volume of runs though, it was the circumstances in which Saharan’s best knocks came that threw light on his steely temperament. Not the most flamboyant of stroke-makers, the 19-year-old was the glue around which the Indian batting unit functioned. His defining contribution was a 124-ball 81 against South Africa in the semi-final, guiding India successfully towards a tricky target of 245. If Saharan could have stayed longer at the crease against Australia, India would have gotten a lot closer to the target than they did.
Sachin Dhas (India)
Dhas was Saharan’s able partner for a majority of that chase against South Africa, hitting 96 off 95 balls to initiate the revival after they were wobbling at 32/4. Against Nepal too, Dhas came in with India in a bit of bother at 62/3 but didn’t show any nerves during his knock of 116. Other than these knocks under severe pressure, Dhas was also at ease when asked to swing his bat in the slog overs, which is why he was chosen as the designated finisher before the start of the campaign. Dhas wasn’t really in the limelight going into the tournament but ended it with his reputation greatly enhanced.
Kwena Maphaka (South Africa)
When Anrich Nortje talks of Kwena Maphaka in glowing terms as a possible future teammate, you know that there is serious promise. Maphaka, a left-arm pacer from Johannesburg, has a mean bouncer and a lethal yorker. He also has the skills for conventional swing. Basically, he is not far from being an all-round package. He finished as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 21 scalps in six innings, winning the player-of-the-tournament award even though South Africa didn’t reach the final. It was hard to resist comparisons with Kagiso Rabada, who starred in South Africa’s victorious 2014 U-19 World Cup campaign. That Rabada made his senior international debut in the same year was evidence of his talent as a teenager. It will be fascinating to observe Maphaka’s transition to the top level.
Callum Vidler (Australia)
Vidler didn’t claim the bag of wickets that teammates Tom Straker and Mahli Beardman did in the semi-final and final respectively. But with 14 wickets in six matches, he was still Australia’s leading wicket-taker. He is quick, hits the deck and just seems to have all the attributes that the senior Australian set-up demands from its pace bowlers. In the final on Sunday, Vidler was pinpoint accurate and responsible for all the pressure that the Australians built in the early overs with the new ball against India’s batters. If Vidler can sustain his accuracy and sharpness in the years ahead, Australia will not need to worry about life after Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc.
Ali Raza (Pakistan)
Pacer Ubaid Shah, the younger brother of Naseem Shah, was earmarked as one to watch out for before the tournament began. He stepped up with 18 scalps at an average of 12.38. Equally exciting is 15-year-old Ali Raza. While his exact age may be a bone of contention given Pakistan’s dubious past in this regard, Raza’s talent isn’t up for debate. The medium-pacer came into the tournament belatedly, but immediately made an impact and ended with nine scalps in just three matches. He notably claimed 4/34 in ten overs against Australia in the semi-final.