Brilliant Aussies demolish India

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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The joy of having beaten Pakistan and rekindled a new ray of hope was short-lived for the Indian team. In less than 24 hours, the Sachin Tendulkar-led squad was back in the dumps and now definitely out of the reckoning for a place in the final of the triangular series.

Australia without a care in the world about qualifying for the final - they have already done that by winning the toss and eventually set a record for the highest ever total in this form of cricket Down Under. The moment they finished their allotted quota of fifty overs with 329 runs on the board, the match was as good as lost for India. Their brittle middle-order could, by no stretch of imagination, ever match the six and a half runs an over which was the asking rate.

The loss of early wickets led to their doom. It is now gloom for the Indian team and an occasion to rejoice for the Pakistanis, who are almost certainly in the final.

These two matches will be only of academic interest for India and for its legion of followers. Let them now focus their attention on the Under-19 team which takes on hosts Sri Lanka in the final of the Junior World Cup at Colombo on Friday. It is this squad, led by Uttar Pradesh's Mohammed Kaif, on which rests that not only the future, but, perhaps, even the immediate need of Indian cricket.

The Under-19 World Cup, sponsored by this fast-expanding portal, has seen highly encouraging performances by the young Indians, notably Mohammed Kaif, Retinder Singh Sodhi, remember this lad who had led India to the Under-15 World Cup final in England three years ago.

While Kaif, who has had more opportunities to play in the Ranji Trophy and Duleep-and-Deodhar Trophy matches than the rest, looks the most exciting prospect from amongst the youngsters. He has scored a plethora of runs in domestic and international cricket and is shaping up to be a very useful all-rounder.

Former India all-rounder Roger Binny, who has taken over as a junior coach from Krishnamachari Srikkanth, speaks highly of the commitment of the boys.

India's desperate search for a genuine all-rounder may not end all that quickly, but will certainly get more worthwhile, what with the likes of Kaif, Reetinder and Yuvraj Singh proving their mettle in an international arena.

Kaif has also impressed everyone with his captaincy and if frequent short TV interviews of the young players is anything to go by, they all look bubbling with enthusiasm and not a little confidence.

The policy of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to provide as much international exposure as possible to our youngsters is beginning to pay rich dividends. The present performance of the Under-19 World Cup team has once again reiterated the fact that, however elaborate the coaching schemes, there is no substitute for the experience of playing against and in other countries.

Ravneet Ricky is having an excellent run at the moment and this opener is worth watching considering the fact that the Indian team is yet to have a stable opening pair in test matches. While Sadagoppan Ramesh has come to stay and it was only an unfortunate injury that kept him out of the one-day side in Australia, Devang Gandhi has clearly been exposed on his technique on the faster, bouncier wickets in Australia.

There are two other contenders, besides Ricky, for the one shot currently held by Gandhi. They are both from Mumbai. Wasim Jaffer is back to his high-scoring form and so is Amol Mazumdar, who must be one of those who were never considered seriously for a place in the Indian team.

For those who continue to support former captain Mohammed Azharuddin's rather ungainly clamour for a place back in the Indian team, the above mentioned youngsters may provide some food for thought. Should we or should we not pursue a policy that would be in the interest of the future or do we need to fall back on experience and bring back someone who is pushing 37 and not yet back to his best batting form.

That debate can, perhaps, wait. All our attention for the present must be focussed on the India Under 19 team and watch the youngsters take on hosts Sri Lanka in Friday's final.

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