February 10th 2024: World Test Championship: In days to come a cricket treat is in store for the lovers of the game. India will be in the thick of it, with their team playing the U-19 World Cup final against Australia and the crucial third Test match in Rajkot against England.
India’s U-19 team, playing their 9th final truly signifies the powerful structure in place that Indian cricket boasts of. Many of their players have gone on to play for the country and the majority of them have played first-class cricket.
The calm and constructive partnership between India’s U-19 captain Uday Saharan and the artistic player from Beed, Sachin Dhas, at a time when India U-19 were reeling at 32 for 4, chasing South Africa’s total of 244 runs, was simply amazing.
The wicket was bouncy and it was a surface that the two Indian batters were not very familiar with. The maturity that both of them showcased to take India to the brink of victory emphasized that Indian cricket is here to stay.
Pakistan in the other semifinal lost to Australia a match that looked to be in their grasp till the very last.
The unsuccessful and futile four-wicket haul and effort by their 15-year-old fast bowler, Ali Raza, to get Pakistan to the final was heartbreaking. This young speedster is a star in the making and his devastating spell had Australia in a bind.
The U-19 World Cup final between Australia and India should be a wonderful match, especially as both teams are beaming with confidence after their fighting wins.
One is amazed as to why an important tournament like the ICC U-19 World Cup does not have the DRS system in place. Although the system may not be entirely convincing, the most important part of it is that it is fair and consistent. It eradicates obvious blunders, which in pressure situations can occur due to wrongly made decisions by an umpire. One has seen so many such blemishes in the recent past.
The Indian fans and followers, having been subjected to two major final losses, in the World Test Championship’23 and the ODI World Cup’23 to Australia, will be praying for a win this time around. For them to avenge the earlier losses would be just the start and a good omen for a successful cricketing 2024.
The young Indian U-19 side under the astute cricketing mind of their coach, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, looks to be the firm favourites to do so. A hero’s welcome beckons the team and each player knows how important the win will be for their future.
The U-19 cricket competition is a well-thought-through concept. The only concern with it is, that it has completely erased the importance of university cricket in India.
Playing cricket for one’s college and University was a great way to get cricketers to graduate. The importance of it was that when a touring side visited India, a combined University side was one of the matches in their cricketing schedule. This allowed aspiring cricketers to get recognized. Several Indian University cricketers went on to play for India via this route, as well as have a degree to fall back on if things went awry. Unfortunately, this has now become irrelevant.
The U-19 has replaced the university segment and one does feel worried for young cricketers of today, who have to make a serious choice between playing the game or concentrating whole-heartedly on their academics.
In cricket, watching pace bowlers in action is a heart-pumping and riveting sight. At times, one does feel a little concerned for the safety of the batter. However, the run-in, the mighty strides, and the unleashing of the ball by a bowler give one goosebumps and that puts all other thoughts to rest. The West Indian bowlers of yesteryears were an exhilarating sight and for them to now have a new star in the making in Shamar Joseph is truly exciting.
The second Test match between India and England at Visakhapatnam was a match in which two of the present cricketing world’s top pace bowlers, Jasprit Bumrah and James Anderson, were a delight to watch. On a barren, dry, and turning track, the pair displayed bowling performances which were a treat to watch and for one to appreciate and marvel at. Bumrah for India, was their superlative match winner, however, at the age of 41 James Anderson for England, bowled with such artistry and skill that made watching him a pleasure.
Rajkot is the venue for the 3rd Test match between the two nations. A batting paradise is what it is known for. During the first-ever Test match played in Rajkot in 2016, two of the present England players, Joe Root and their captain Ben Stokes scored centuries. Both must be looking forward to repeating this feat once again. The Rajkot wicket is ideally situated to the aggressive baseball style of cricket that the England team is reveling in. One may see plenty of stroke play and quick runs being notched up, an action-based cricket scenario that is always enjoyable.
One wonders whether the majestic bowling showcased earlier by Bumrah and Anderson will be witnessed on the dead and dreary surface that the Rajkot wicket provides. The 2 pacers have proven that they are a handful in any conditions, however, this will be a true test of their skill and endurance.
Whatever the outcome, cricket will be a pleasurable watch in the days to come. An Indian U-19 victory and a Test win will be just what every Indian cricket lover would be looking forward to. A bit of luck is all that one can hope for, for the two Indian teams.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)