The 2018 U-19 World Cup, currently underway in New Zealand, is attracting a lot of attention the world over among cricket fans. With its coverage having gone bigger and more visible, there is a lot of focus and excitement on the young players performing in the event. Every good performance is being applauded and new talents being keenly observed.
In India’s first game against Australia, Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi, the Indian quicks, bowled with great venom and constantly clicked speeds of over 140 km/h. In a country that has been starved of decent pace bowlers, this was a sight for the tired eyes and was applauded wholeheartedly in the social media. In fact, none other than ex-Indian captain Sourav Ganguly tweeted, mentioning that these young quicks are worth keeping an eye out for.
This just goes to show how much of an impact the U-19 World Cup has these days. There was a time when this tournament was barely noticed. And today, it has become a genuine launch pad for youngsters to be internationally recognized even before they have played any first-class cricket. So the question that needs to be asked now is whether the U-19 World Cup can now be considered as a stepping stone for young cricketers for an international call-up?
Youngsters need to go through the rigors of first-class cricket first
It is well known by now that the likes of Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson, and Hashim Amla, to name a few, first got recognition through their exploits in the U-19 World Cup. However, it was through the grind, toil and repeated success at the first-class level that these players got the opportunity to represent the country.
The U-19 World Cup is a good platform. It allows youngsters some great exposure of playing in different conditions of the world and of facing off against cricketers of all nationalities. The experience they gather in such a high-octane and fiercely competitive tournament can be extremely helpful in molding them for the path ahead.
It would be unwise, however, to take them directly from the U-19 level to the international one. The path in between those two phases must be covered by every cricketer. Getting to skip it altogether, except in some extremely rare cases, might do more harm than good to the young cricketers.
The World Cup provides an experience of a very different kind to these young lads. But they also need to hone their skills and go through the toil of first-class cricket to become a proper and complete cricketer. There is and should never be an easy way to success. Rushing those kids to the world of international cricket might hamper their progress.
First-class cricket allows players to be disciplined, patient, and tenacious. Without developing these traits through the rigors of domestic cricket, a youngster, who has been inducted in international cricket directly, might struggle as he grows older.
So, while we should definitely be excited for young talents emerging from the U-19 World Cup, we should also be very watchful to not go overboard with it or call for their inclusion in international cricket straightaway. After all, there is a whole sea of a difference between those two levels. And that needs to be respected.
For now, let us savour the young talents like Prithwi Shah, Raynard van Tonder, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shaheen Shah Afridi and, Jason Sangha, among a plethora of others featuring in the ICC U-19 World Cup. And just hope that they go on to make a name for themselves in international cricket in the years to come as better versions of themselves.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)