February 4, 2022: India reaching the final of the U-19 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies truly reflects that their brood is shining bright. This will be the fourth consecutive time that India have reached the final. The Indian team looks well balanced and head and shoulders above the rest. The maturity that their captain Yash Dhull and their vice-captain Shaik Rasheed showed while batting against Australia in the semifinal was remarkable. The way they constructed and consolidated their innings with such precision and flair truly augments well for Indian cricket.
The U-19 system has become a boon for Indian cricket as young players are getting a chance to get recognised on the world stage. The present Indian senior team has many who have come up the U-19 ranks. Therefore, this clearly indicates how beneficial it has been for Indian cricket.
Getting into the Indian U-19 side is very similar to students getting into prestigious institutes like IIM, IIT and other business schools in India. One is set for a big career ahead and with a bit of tidying up, ready for the fray.
Cricket has become a full-fledged career option and the class of the U-19 Indian 2022 team will be in great demand not only in their respective state sides but also in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.
The BCCI should be complimented in the way the present Indian U-19 side has performed in these difficult pandemic times. To conduct the U-19 Vijay Hazare trophy and then the Challengers Trophy with Bangladesh as the fourth side was a well thought out decision under these circumstances.
The Indian side winning the U-19 Asia Cup in Dubai before departing for the World Cup was a good way to get them started for the big event ahead.
India will play England in the final on February 5, 2022 and win or lose India have already shown the class they possess through the young exciting talent amongst them.
The IPL auction would definitely be in the minds of the Indian U-19 Indian cricketers, as getting into one of the franchise-based sides would be just the icing on the cake that they need. A classy performance in the final should augment well for them.
The only worry that one sees in the path of a young Indian cricketer in the future is the lack of getting a college education and degree. Cricket has become a time-consuming career and the short-term monetary gains are preventing them from continuing with their studies. An International player is now making big bucks and even a first-class domestic cricketer is making enough to continue playing the game.
The IPL has been a great incentive as well and many cricketers have gained a substantial amount playing in it in the last 13 years. This has given cricketers a false impression that education is not important to pursue.
This may seem like a rosy affair for cricketers at present, but one wonders as to how many of them will be able to sustain themselves on this income in their lifetime. In the past, young cricketers were encouraged to become graduates as this gave them employment in companies which encouraged cricket as a sport. Public and private corporates played a major role in encouraging cricketers to ply their trade and thereafter get them settled into a career in the organisation after they retired.
Therefore, college and university cricket was encouraged and young cricketers were recognised and many played for the country and others for their state sides via this route. This was a good system, which gave a cricketer the opportunity to play and also have a job once one’s career was over.
The college and university structure has now been side-lined with the U-17 and the U-19 getting more prominence. The irony of this change has not been felt by the cricketers at present, as most of them are still playing or have recently retired with a reasonable sum of money.
The BCCI needs to get education back into a cricketer’s life. The digital world has made this possible. They are in partnership through sponsorship with e-learning companies and education institutions. Online courses would give a young cricketer the opportunity to get an education and a degree or diploma that could help them in the future. This would go a long way to resolve an issue that may become a major concern in the life of a cricketer in years to come, if not addressed soon.
A young cricketer is so engrossed in playing the sport that any adverse thoughts of what one’s life could be in the future never crosses one’s mind. This is where the BCCI needs to play their part. The richest cricket body is growing exponentially both on and off the field. Educating cricketers not only in the cricket-related field but also in other areas of work would be an ideal solution which will benefit the young cricketers.
The India U-19 side should, in most probability, come out winners. They seem like a unit ready to strike. They showed that even after many of their top players fell victims to the dreaded virus. A win would be a golden ending to their campaign.
All the best, India.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)