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While a major chunk of India still rouses itself from the daze of the IPL auction, a band of 15 of India’s brightest young talents are priming themselves for the biggest challenge of their blossoming careers.
The ICC Under-19 World Cup kicks off in the UAE today, with four matches, the biggest of them being the South African u-19s taking on West Indies u-19 in Dubai.
For India though, who will play their first match against arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday, it is time to put the game face on.
With two defeats in their two warm-up matches against Sri Lanka and South Africa — the defending champions were brushed aside without too much difficulty in both games — India will look to start their campaign on a solid note.
Back to back defeats are not the best way to start off a campaign, especially when they are to kick things off against Pakistan, but the colts can take some heart from the fact that they beat their western neighbours comprehensively in the final of the u-19 Asia Cup a month back.
In that match, all that has been impressive about this u-19 Indian side clicked firmly into place. Skipper Vijay Zol and middle-order talisman Sanju Samson, got tons.
The bowling worked as a unit, complementing each other, with mystery-man, Kuldeep Yadav picking up three wickets. Also, despite the defeat in the warm up games, the Indians would have got a fair measure of the conditions they would have to contend with during the showpiece event in the last month or so.
Coming into the World Cup, the India side has ticked almost all boxes. It has won four international tournaments on the trot, beating elite sides like Australia and South Africa in convincing fashion.
The team wears a settled look, especially in the batting department with skipper Zol and Samson coming off encouraging First Class seasons.
Zol with 500 odd runs and Samson being Kerala’s highest run-getter are sure to back themselves to come good when it matters.
The middle-order, with Mumbai’s Sarfaraz Khan and Andhra’s Ricky Bhui getting quick, useful runs late in the innings is sure to comfort coach Bharat Arun. The bowling unit also looks well stocked.
While chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, has been very effective, the seamers led by Baroda’s Deepak Hooda, Indore’s Avesh Khan and the incisive CV Milind from Hyderabad will share the new-ball duties.
Captain Zol, has said that while the pitches in the UAE will not particularly assist seamers, he expects his bowlers to bowl according to the plan and exert continous pressure, something which this Indian side has failed to do in the warm-ups. Though India has won the U-19 World Cup thrice, they have never successfully defended their title before. Pakistan is the only team to have done so.