middle-order batsman, spinner
Wow factor: A devious arm-ball, stable batsman
A couple of years back when India reached Bangalore for the second Test against Australia, after being harassed by a left-arm spinner, Steve O’Keefe in Pune, they wanted to face as many left-arm spinners as possible in the nets. Hegde was promptly drafted in. After watching Ravindra Jadeja and Nathan Lyon from close quarters, he would pen down his observations and discuss it with his father Samarth, a former Karnataka U-23 batsman.“What has impressed me the most is his composure under pressure,” says coach Irfan Sait.
Wow factor: Has a lethal googly
Stored in Ravi Bishnoi’s smartphone is a footage of him bowling to Jos Buttler in the Rajasthan Royals nets. There’s nothing apparently breathtaking in the two-minute clip, no ripping leg-breaks or whizzing googlies. Nonetheless, he keeps it close to his heart.
The tall leggie, with a diagonal run-up, has a fizzing googly that often turns more than the leg-break. “It’s his most dangerous weapon because batsmen don’t expect the googly to turn big. But I tell him not to over-use it,” says his coach Pradyot Rathore.
When Rathore first saw him, Bishnoi was around nine and was bowling medium pace. But one evening, he began bowling leg-breaks and the coach was impressed. Pocketed by Kings XI for a whopping sum of Rs 2 crore—a relief for his family of eight—he would hope running into Buttler again, this time in an actual match.
Left-arm fast bowler
Wow factor: Took all 10 wickets in a local T20 match
Akash Singh once took all 10 ten wickets without conceding a single run in a T20 match. Eight of them, his coach at the Aravalli Academy in Jaipur, Vivek Yadav, says were in-swingers. “He has beautiful wrists,” the coach says proudly. He was only 15 when he ran through the side. Three years before that, he was just a street cricketer in Bharatpur, 180-odd kilometres from Jaipur. But a few scouts took him to Jaipur, despite reluctance from his parents who were worried about his academics. Akash has only one quibble: He has failed the Class 10 board exams four times. But he believes he can pass the World Cup test with flying colours.
Right-arm medium pacer
Wow factor: Deadly in-swinger
There is scant footage of his bowling on the web. But the few available videos project a remarkable testament to his skills. First is a vicious in-swinger, that cuts the batsman into two and disfigures the stumps. The next is pitched around the spot—on the fifth stump—the batsman reaches for it, only for the ball to hold its line. On the back of his impressive Ranji debut, he got picked by Rajasthan Royals for Rs 1.3 crore.
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Wow factor: consistency
In his 10 outings for India colts, only twice has he gone wicketless, has picked 21 wickets at 14 including a hat-trick against Afghanistan. Coach Manish Vardhan says, “He can be deceptive on flat tracks too. He has grown up on such surfaces only.”
Left-handed top-order batsman
Wow factor: Dynamic fielder
The stylish batsman with a fine technique and a penchant for leg-side has been a little off-colour of late, but Dravid has seen enough of his quality to keep him in the World Cup squad. What compelled his case might have been his exemplary fielding skills.
Batting-wise, he struggled to cope with the bouncy South African surfaces last year, so he shelved his plan to visit his family in Haridwar and began practising the short-pitch stuff.
“I was in good touch, but was playing too many reckless shots. I got starts in most games, but couldn’t score a big hundred. So I have worked on those aspects during the break,” he told a local television channel.
* CLT Rakshan
Part of the team for South Africa series, he didn’t make the World Cup cut.
Right-handed batsman, captain
Wow factor: only one in this team to have first-class hundreds
There is a clear chasm between Priyam Garg and his teammates—he has played twice as many first-class games as the entire team put together. He averages 66, scored a century on debut and rattled a double hundred against Tripura. He also bagged an IPL contract worth Rs 1.9 crore with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Behind his comeuppance is the heart-wrenching story of a father doing odd jobs such as selling milk, driving school vans, newspaper distribution and loading goods to make ends meet as well as keep his son’s cricket dreams burning. He would also accompany his son every day in the 20-km journey in buses from village Parikshitgarh to coach Sanjay Rastogi’s academy in Meerut, ensuring he didn’t miss his mother, who passed away when he was only 11.
Right-handed middle-order batsman, wicket-keeper
Wow factor: Crisis man
The day before India’s final against South Africa in the quadrangular series, Dhruv Jurel was you-tubing the best of MS Dhoni’s knocks. His mind kept whispering that he would have to play a Dhoni-like knock the next day. The foreboding came true, as he walked in with the side tottering at 3/13. How the rest of his innings unfurled was vintage Dhoni stuff. But what impressed coach Parvinder Singh the most was that when he buzzed him the next morning, he was still ruing the reckless stroke he played to get out. “He was almost crying over the phone. That showed his hunger and determination,” he told Amar Ujala.
Wow factor: Adaptability and aggression
The swashbuckling southpaw loves to make grand first impressions. He marked his U-14 debut for Mumbai with a double hundred. The year before, he thought his career was over when he was dropped from eleven in a Cooch Behar Trophy game though he was the skipper. But rather than getting dispirited, he drew inspiration from the snubbing to hit a double hundred against Punjab next game. The output was enough to catch Dravid’s attention. Once in the team, he overhauled his diet and began spending more time in the gym than catching up with friends. The inspiration goes without saying: Virat Kohli.
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Wow factor: finisher
In backyard cricket in Bokaro, he was always MS Dhoni without the long tresses. Fast hands and faster brains, his coach Victor Joseph points out. “He’s a quality wicket-keeper, both against pace and spin,” he says. And he’s turned 15 just three months ago, the youngest of the lot.
But his composure belies his age, which he has demonstrated a few times in youth ODIs. Last year, in an U-19 match against South Africa, he scored an unbeaten 43 that set up his team’s victory. Usually batting down the order, he’s not a Dhoni-clone in his batting style. More of a gritty than dashing batsman, who’s extremely good in chasing down totals, is how Joseph describes him. As Bokaro was a cricketing backwater, he shifted to Ranchi last year. So did his family, in pursuit of their son’s cricketing journey.
Right-arm medium pacer
Place: Raichur, Karnataka
Wow factor: deceptive bouncer
Vidyadhar Patil desperately wanted to be a batsman—it’s this burning desire that made him pedal 25km from his farming village Chiksugur in Northern Karnataka to a cricket academy in Raichur—but instead he turned out to be the one piling misery on batsmen. The transformation happened under coach Venkat Reddy in the City XI Cricket Club, where he joined when he was around 13. The moment Reddy saw him, he realised he was better equipped to be a fast bowler than a batsman.
Thereafter, he inculcated strong work ethics into him, besides an easy, repeatable action. “For his age, he’s a strong and energetic boy. With more experience, he could be quicker and possibly add more variations,” he says.
Wow factor: Youngest double centurion in List A cricket
Few cricketers in his batch has endured as many hardships in life as Yashasvi Jaiswal to reach where he’s now—the youngest double centurion on List A cricket, an IPL millionaire and one of the batting pillars of the junior side. That he boarded a train from Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh to live his cricketing dream, used to sleep in municipal tents at the Azad Maidan ground, sell paani puris and fruits are well-chronicled.
All those hardships have forged inner steel in him, and an “extraordinary game sense and unflappable focus”, as his Mumbai U-19 coach Satish Samant puts it. All those labours have made him a batsman far more mature than his age. His double century was just another testimony.
Right -handed middle-order batsman/opener
Wow factor: A compact, flexible batsman
Not an original squad member but flown in after all-rounder Divyansh Joshi injured his shoulder. Though not a like-for-like replacement, he brings utility into the side. In his short youth career, he has batted almost everywhere in the line-up and fared well. Once, he opened against New Zealand and reeled off an assured 71; in the next game, he blasted an unbeaten 48 off 35 balls against South Africa coming in at No 6. Of late, he has improved his off-breaks and enhanced his reputation as a partnership breaker to go with his on-field athleticism.
Wow factor: Big-match player
Atharva Ankolekar’s rags-to-fame narrative is well-storied—raised by a single mother, who’s a bus conductor and driven by the singular desire to fulfill his late cricket-mad father’s dream of his son representing the country. But it’s time his bowling alone started getting more attention. First came his 5/28 in the U-19 Asia Cup final against Bangladesh when India was defending a lowly 106. Then came his 4/31 against South Africa in the quadrangular series final last year.
He is not a big turner of the ball but spins it enough to trouble the batsmen. The variations are subtle, like clever changes in angle, length, release positions and speed, which makes him a threat on all types of surfaces.
Wow factor: stroke-maker
When India Under-19 took on their Pakistan counterparts in the Asia Cup last year, his coach Saleem Bayash was nervously checking cricket websites for updates. He had heard from his student that Pakistan had a couple of exceptional quicks. One of them was tearaway Naseem Shah, who made his Test debut against Australia a few months later. A day before the match Saleem had advised him to bat carefully against them. “Play them out,” he told him.
Around noon, he learned that Varma had scored 110 off 119 balls. In the evening, he called the coach. “Sir, I played just as you instructed me.” Later when he watched the highlights, he realised that Varma was far from being truthful. Naseem was ruthlessly driven through extra covers . “I don’t need to advise him anymore. He knows what he needs to do,” he says.
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