All eyes of the cricketing world on Tuesday were on the ICC U-19 World Cup semi-final clash between India and Pakistan. While the game was expected to be an explosive match-up, Prithvi Shaw‘s Indian team blew Pakistan away for 69 while defending 272 to march into another final.
The summit clash against Australia will be India’s sixth in the history of the tournament – the most managed by any side. Such has been their consistency in the tournament in recent years that they have now made the final in five of the last seven editions.
Both 2018 finalists have been equally successful when it comes to winning titles with three championships each to their name. Hence, the final on Saturday at Mount Maunganui will be a chance for both sides to become the most successful team in the history of the U-19 competition.
It was in 2000 that the Indians first made it to the final of the tournament. A Mohammad Kaif led side beat hosts Sri Lanka in the final at Colombo to clinch the first U-19 World Cup win for India. Yuvraj Singh was the star for India in the tournament as he delivered a man-of-the-series performance.
Since then, their record in the U-19 tournament has only improved with each passing edition. Virat Kohli delivered India’s second title in 2008 when his side beat South Africa in the title clash at Kuala Lumpur.
India’s third title came in 2012 under the leadership of Unmukt Chand. Australia were the losing finalists in that instance and revenge will be on their minds when the two sides meet on Saturday.
Having made six finals compared to Australia’s five, it is India who hold the edge when it comes to the mantle of being the most successful side in the history of the competition. However, come Saturday, it will be a direct shootout for that claim.
Shaw and his boys have been top-class throughout the tournament, winning all five of their matches. What will also give them greater confidence is teh fact they beat Saturday’s opponents in their opening match of the group-stages.
The Rahul Dravid coached side have been near flawless so far in the U19 World Cup and the final provides them a chance to become the kings of the U-19 world.
The ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand is veering towards its conclusion with just three matches remaining.
The past month has seen 16 of the world’s best youth teams battle it out for junior cricket’s most coveted prize.
Australia and India will contest Saturday’s final with both teams searching for their fifth crown but prior to the contest we look at the top five players from what has been an enthralling tournament so far.
SHUBMAN GILL (INDIA)
The Punjab-born 18-year-old has been the tournament’s best batsman so far. There can be no doubt about his temperament either after his match-winning unbeaten 102 against arch-rivals Pakistan in Tuesday’s semi-finals.
His three innings prior to the Pakistan clash had yielded scores of 63, 90no and 86. With a batting average of 170, it is no wonder that Gill has bagged a lucrative IPL contract.
HARRY BROOK (ENGLAND)
The Yorkshire batsman has been the shining light for England in the tournament with some eye-catching performances with the bat. He has been dismissed only twice in the tournament and scored a classy unbeaten 102 against Bangladesh in the group stages.
Brook has been averaging almost 120 with the bat and has also shown his all-round capabilities by chipping in with two wickets.
QAIS AHMAD (AFGHANISTAN)
With 14 scalps in five matches, the Afghanistan leg-spinner is the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup so far. He was instrumental in his side’s dream run to the semi-finals where they perished at the hands of the Australians.
His best performance came in the quarter-finals against hosts New Zealand where he returned with match-winning figures of 4-33.
ANUKUL ROY (INDIA)
He might not be the leading wicket-taker but with an insane bowling average of 7.91 and an economy rate of just 3.6, India’s left-arm spinner Anukul Roy has been up there with the best.
He was extremely lethal in the group-stages where his 5-15 against Papua New Guinea and 4-20 against Zimbabwe paved the way for some big wins for India.
SHAHEEN AFRIDI (PAKISTAN)
The Pakistan teenager is the latest product to be churned out of the country’s fast-bowling factory and he’s shown he has all the tools to make it big at the senior level.
The left-arm pacer has picked up 12 wickets in five matches at an average of 14.58. The 17-year-old was sensational against the Irish where he ran through their batting order with 6-15.
It has been three days since India beat Bangladesh in the quarter-finals of the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup on its Republic Day. The Indian colts now get ready to take on arch-rivals Pakistan in what promises to be an enthralling and high-octane affair at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Tuesday.
Within the span of these three days, six youngsters from the Indian squad have struck gold in the IPL auction frenzy which culminated on Sunday.
Skipper Prithvi Shaw, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma and Manjot Kalra have all found takers in the billion-dollar IPL. Express pacer Nagarkoti landed the biggest cash windfall amongst his team-mates after he was snapped up for £357,000 (Dh1.8m) by Kolkata Knight Riders.
It is easy for the youngsters to have their heads turned after raking in the moolah at such an early age but the presence of the legendary Rahul Dravid in the dressing room as coach and mentor had been vital in keeping their feet grounded.
Dravid, no stranger to the madness of the money-laden IPL, is doing his part in ensuring that the focus of the boys remains steady on the clash against Pakistan.
“The auction is not something the boys can control. One or two auctions won’t really have a long-term impact on their careers. There is an auction every year, but not every year will they have an opportunity to play for India in possibly a World Cup semi-final. That doesn’t come very often,” he had said in an interview to Cricinfo ahead of the quarter-final tie.
With the auction now over, Tuesday’s clash is all that matters for the newly minted youngsters like Nagarkoti and Gill.
Speaking to reporters after the IPL auction, Gill said: “It feels very good to get a chance, but it’s important to live in the present and focus on the India-Pakistan semi-final.”
“Dravid sir had a meeting with us. He told us, IPL auction will keep happening every year. Whether you get picked or no, don’t worry about that. Just focus on the Under-19 World Cup because we won’t have this opportunity again in our lives,” Nagarkoti echoed Gill’s sentiments.
With India-Pakistan clashes becoming such a rarity in international cricket, youngsters from both sets of teams will have the weight of their respective countrymen behind them when they line up at the Hagley Oval.
It is India who hold the edge when it comes to previous meetings between the two. Out of the 21 previous clashes, India has prevailed in 12 with Pakistan winning eight while one match ended in a no-result.
Past records however, will have no bearing on the tie as two of cricket’s greatest rivals meet. With both sides in great form, there will be no clear favourites for the clash but a tense and close-fought affair is almost guaranteed.