No dearth of talent

Written by: Sajith Balakrishnan
Published: Monday, March 1, 2004, 20:23 [IST]
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Indian colts might have lost the semi-final battle to Pakistan in the Under-19 World Cup at Dhaka, but they conquered a lot of hearts in the course of the tournament. During the past fortnight, they played cricket of the highest order and class with vim and vitality. Very often, it's such battles that separate the men from the boys.

The Under-19 concept has come of age and is quite often seen as the launchpad to getting into the senior side. Irfan Pathan, who was one of the finds of the Australian tour, was definitely a beneficiary of the U-19 concept. It was one of his fiery spells where he rocked a hapless Bangladeshi side with a nine-wicket haul that made the selectors sit up and have a good look at him. India previously had been crowned world champions and it was that tournament which saw the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Reetinder Singh Sodhi making the top grade.

In the present edition, where the likes of Shikar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik and the lot ruled the roost, India was very much the favourites to win the Cup, especially after their dream run in the first round. However, the loss of captain Ambati Rayudu in the form of a one-match suspension dealt a body blow to the side in the semi-final encounter against archrivals Pakistan. Despite being bowled out for a paltry 169, the Indian colts did put up a brave front before bowing out.

The lads exhibited undying enthusiasm throughout the tournament and a Cup win would have been the icing on the cake. But fate had something else written for them. Yet, they showed that there is no dearth of talent in the country. At a time when the whole nation is keeping its fingers crossed over the Pakistan tour, it would have been befitting if a couple of players from the present bunch had made it to the top. Just being in the 15 would do a world of good for these guys who have shown themselves to be never short of courage. An investment in youth has paid rich dividends in the past. Remember the fact that the last Pak tour unearthed a teenage batting prodigy called Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

It seems as though the country's talent cupboard is full. In the recent past, the senior side has not been able to play full strength due to injuries to the players. However, the Indian bench strength (which was supposed to be the weakest or practically null) has come to the fore at last. When Zaheer was rendered hors de combat, Irfan Pathan ably filled in the void. It is high time the selectors had a look at Dinesh Karthik who may be an answer to India's long search for a 'keeper who can bat.

The matches played in the Under-19 have begun to generate an excitement quite unseen in the past. The lads who are hardly out of their teens are bubbling with enthusiasm with oodles of talent to back them up. Indian cricket will gain a lot from them.

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