India are the most successful team in the history of the Under-19 World Cup and will be going into this year's edition as the defending champions. India have four titles to their name, while Australia have emerged victorious on three occasions. The tournament serves as a perfect platform for several budding cricketers from all around the world to showcase their talent at the top level. Starting from Brian Lara to Virat Kohli, the competition has produced some world-class players.
The 2020 U-19 World Cup will start from January 17 in South Africa and India will play their first match against Sri Lanka on January 19. The Men in Blue are placed in Group A along with Sri Lanka, New Zealand and debutants Japan. India will be led by Uttar Pradesh's Priyam Garg and there are quite a few players in the 15-man squad who already have IPL contracts and have also played for their respective states. However, there are also players who are yet to make a name for themselves in the domestic circuit and will look to make this opportunity count under the guidance of head coach and former India fast bowler Paras Mhambrey.
Prior to the World Cup, India were involved in an ODI series against the hosts South Africa. They then also played a Quadrangular series involving South Africa, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.
Before India start their World Cup journey on January 19, let's know a little bit more about the 15 players who have been given the responsibility to defend India's crown.
Priyam Garg (Captain)
It's been a case of two halves for former India Under-19 captains. Either they have gone on to achieve great success, or have failed horribly in their graduation process from junior level to senior cricket. This year it's Priyam Garg who will be leading India in the World Cup. The top-order batsman from Uttar Pradesh has already made quite a name for himself in the domestic circuit and was also bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for INR 1.9 crore in the 2020 IPL auction.
His story of facing Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the nets at the age of 15 is well known. Garg amassed lots of runs in the KSCA Invitational tournament in Bengaluru in 2018 and was straightaway drafted into the UP Ranji squad. He accumulated 814 runs at 67.83 in his debut season and has also done well in List-A cricket and T20s. A huge fan of Sachin Tendulkar, Garg impressed the likes of former India U-19 coach Rahul Dravid and Suresh Raina and is destined to have a great future if he keeps going at the same pace. He also featured in the Deodhar Trophy and scored a gutsy 74 in the final.
Coming from a humble background, Yashasvi Jaiswal's journey to the top is an inspiration to many. He was born in Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh but moved to Mumbai to pursue cricket. Jaiswal lived in a tent and had to sell pani-puri for three years but it all started to change once a local coach Jwala Singh took him under his wing. The left-handed opener soon started making waves and was first selected in the India U-19 squad for the Sri Lanka tour in August 2019. Jaiswal has worked a lot on his batting with Dravid and took the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy by storm, slamming a double century, two hundreds and a fifty in just six matches. He smoked 203 off just 154 balls, including 12 sixes and 17 fours, against Jharkhand and became the youngest double centurion in List-A cricket. Jaiswal, who was purchased by Rajasthan Royals in the 2020 Auction, is someone who can take the game away from the opposition in a matter of few overs. He has been in superb form in the last few months and could be India's game-changer in the forthcoming tournament.
A gifted left-hander from Hyderabad, Tilak is one of those who have come through the system. The 17-year-old has already represented Hyderabad in all three formats at the senior level and has a big fan in former India batsman Ambati Rayudu. He performed on a consistent basis in age-group cricket and made his Ranji debut in the 2018-19 season. He didn't have a great game but Tilak has been part of the India U-19 team for quite some time now. Tilak, who scored 779 runs in the 2018-19 Cooch Behar Trophy, stamped his authority in the U-19 Asia Cup where he slammed a century against Pakistan in the quarterfinal. Apart from being a technically sound batsman, Tilak is also a handy offspinner.
Mumbai's Divyansh Saxena broke into the India U-19 squad after plundering tons of runs in the last Cooch Behar Trophy. He smashed 781 runs at 55.79 in eight encounters, including two centuries and four fifties. The left-hander started his career at the Dilip Vengsarkar foundation and is a huge fan of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. The opener made his debut in a four-day game against South Africa and announced his arrival by scoring a century. Then with 321 runs to his name, Saxena emerged as the highest run-getter in the tri-series in England, also involving South Africa. With scores of 86* and 128* in South Africa, Saxena has been in pretty solid form and will be expected to create an impact up the order along with Jaiswal.
Rawat, who was born in Uttarakhand, shifted to Vadodara around four years ago to pursue his dream of making a big name as a cricketer. Saxena, who started playing cricket in Dehradun at the age of 10, has modelled his batting on Kohli and Australian opener David Warner. He made his debut for the Baroda U-19 team during the 2018-19 season and recently led the side in the Cooch Behar Trophy and Vinoo Mankad Trophy. The hard-hitting left-hander hasn't yet got that big score for India U-19 but scored 53 runs in the second 50-over game of the five-match series against Afghanistan which went down to the wire. Rawat will mostly bat lower down the order and his job will be to finish matches for his team.
Dhruv Jurel (Vice-captain)
The wicketkeeper-batsman from Uttar Pradesh will be India's vice-captain in the World Cup. It was under the leadership of Jurel that India won the Asia Cup last year and the 18-year-old is now known as Captain Jurel in his Agra Defence Colony. Son of a Kargil war veteran, Jurel's father wanted him to go to the National Defence Academy but by then he had already fallen in love with the game. A huge fan of AB de Villiers and Dhoni, Jurel watches a lot of their videos on YouTube. Jurel started as a batsman and offspinner but soon gave up on his bowling and donned the wicketkeeping gloves.
He moved to Noida after the age of 15 and managed to breakthrough UP's U-19 squad in the 2018-19 season. He also had an amazing Cooch Behar Trophy, stacking up 736 runs at 61.33. It's way too early to compare Jurel with Dhoni, but the Agra lad is brilliant behind the stumps and is someone who finishes the match for his team down the order. He has already played a few crucial knocks for India and if he keeps going at the same pace, it won't be too long before people start drawing parallels with Dhoni.
A wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand! Kushagra has idolized Dhoni since his childhood and always wanted to be a wicketkeeper-batsman. The 15-year-old has a solid technique and can play both the roles of the aggressor and the consolidator. He had a pretty good 2018-19 Vijay Merchant Trophy in which he slammed a century in the semifinal against Madhya Pradesh. He has been a consistent performer for Jharkhand at the age-group level but will probably serve as a back-up wicketkeeper in the World Cup, unless the Indian team management decide to play both Jurel and Kushagra in the playing XI, something that they have done in the recent past.
Maharashtra was called up to India's World Cup squad after all-rounder Divyansh Joshi dislocated his shoulder while fielding in a Youth ODI against South Africa and was ruled out of the tournament. Veer played two games in the quadrangular one-day series involving New Zealand, Zimbabwe and hosts South Africa. He slammed 71 in India's win over Black Caps opening the batting and then scored an unbeaten 48 in the final against South Africa batting at No.6. He also picked up a wicket in that encounter. The right-hander has done well in the limited opportunities he has got. Veer is also an all-rounder and has been a consistent performer for Maharashtra in junior cricket.
Fantastic left-arm spinner. Handy batsman. Superb fielder. The Bangalore boy is someone who contributes in all facets of the game. The 18-year-old started as a left-arm pacer but his father suggested him to switch to spin bowling. A huge admirer of Daniel Vettori and Nathan Lyon, Hegde has already made quite a name for himself in the Karnataka Premier League. He has also played one first-class match for Karnataka against Baroda in which he claimed four wickets. He was also asked to bowl to the Indian players at the nets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium prior to their Test against Australia. Hegde is someone who relies more on flight and has got a stable head on his shoulders. He also recently captained India in three 50-over games against Afghanistan and has been in good form with both bat and ball going into the mega-event.
Mumbai's spin-bowling all-rounder Ankolekar, whose mother works as a conductor at the BEST bus depot at Marol in the suburbs of Mumbai, rose to fame after claiming a five-wicket haul against Bangladesh in the final of the U-19 Asia Cup. India were dismissed for mere 106 runs but the left-arm spinner took 5 for 28 and helped his team lift the title by five runs. Ankolekar lost his father at the age of nine and his dad's job went to his mother in 2014. He trained at the PTVA Sports academy and has represented Mumbai at the U-14, U-17, U-19 and U-23 level. In 2010, during a training session, he managed to impress Tendulkar and got a pair of autographed gloves from the batting maestro. Ankolekar's bowling style is a bit like Vettori as he relies more on pace variation, and will be one of India's key members in the bowling department.
The 19-year-old legspinner from Rajasthan was bought by Kings XI Punjab for INR 2 crore in the IPL 2020 auction. The teenager from Jodhpur has already represented his state in white-ball cricket and has been in outstanding form in youth ODIs. In 12 games he has played at this level, Bishnoi has claimed 22 wickets at an average of 19. He also took 10 wickets in five games that India played in South Africa ahead of the World Cup. Bishnoi is no mug with the bat as he is someone who can tonk the ball down the order. However, his biggest priority will be to pick up wickets in the middle overs, something that he has been doing perfectly for the past few months.
Coming from a humble background, Tyagi's journey to the top hasn't been an easy one. The right-arm fast bowler will lead India's pace attack in the World Cup and is someone who can constantly bowl at 140 kmph. He commenced playing cricket at the age of just 13 and managed to impress everyone with his pace and control. He made his Ranji Trophy debut before playing a U-19 game for his state. He took three wickets in that encounter against Railways in 2017. He couldn't build on that performance as he got injured and was forced to take a break from the game.
He also took nine wickets in five games in England last year and then claimed six more against Afghanistan. Tyagi, who was bought by Rajasthan Royals for INR 1.3 crore in the auction, will be expected to create the same impact that Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shivam Mavi made in the 2018 U-19 World Cup.
Mishra grabbed eyeballs in junior domestic tournaments with his left-arm pace and has now been a part of the Indian U-19 side for quite some time now. The fast bowler from Jharkhand has played 13 games at this level and has taken 29 wickets at an impressive average of 16.10. He was in solid form in the U-19 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka where he took eight wickets, including a five-wicket haul against Afghanistan. Prior to that, he was out of action for nine months after he injured his left shoulder and had to go through surgery. However, since his comeback, Mishra has been performing on a consistent basis. Mishra has been amongst the wickets in the Quadrangular Under-19 series, having taken 10 wickets in just three games. He along with Tyagi will be expected to lead the Indian bowling attack in the forthcoming competition.
A medium-pacer from Raichur, Karnataka, Patil made his India U-19 debut last year in a tri-series in England. He took two wickets on his debut against England and since then has been part of the U-19 side. He still hasn't had that big performance but Patil has chipped in almost every game that he has played and has operated with an economy of 4.57. However, his father wanted him to become a batsman but the tall and lanky lad was encouraged by his coach Venkat Reddy to take up fast bowling. Patil, who idolises Mohammed Shami, will probably be India's third-preferred pacer and will form a trio with Tyagi and Mishra.
The left-arm paceman from Bharatpur was acquired by his home franchise Rajasthan Royals for the next edition of IPL. Akash started playing cricket at the age of nine and got all the support from his family. In 2017, he recorded figures of 10 for 0 in an open tournament in Jaipur and was straightaway drafted into the U-16 state team before making it to India U-19. Akash, who has played one T20 for Rajasthan in November last year, has featured in nine 50-over games for India and has taken as many wickets at an economy of 4.54. His biggest strength is his ability to bring the ball back in and can cause trouble to the opposition in South African conditions.