India are the most successful team in the history of the Under-19 World Cup and will once again be going into this year's edition as the red-hot favourites. They have four titles to their name, which could have been five if they wouldn’t have lost to Bangladesh in the finale of the 2020 edition. 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 many world-class players.
The 2022 U-19 World Cup will start from January 14 in West Indies and India will play their first match against South Africa on January 15. The Men in Blue are placed in Group B along with South Africa, Ireland and Uganda. India will be led by Yash Dhull and have a couple of players who are already well-known in the domestic circuit. However, there are also players who are yet to make a name for themselves and will look to make this opportunity count under the guidance of head coach and former India player Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
The selectors picked the 17-man squad largely based on the performances in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy. These players were also involved in a tri-series in Kolkata before featuring in the Asia Cup in the UAE, which India won by defeating Sri Lanka in the final. So, here’s everything you need to know about the India squad participating in the forthcoming event.
Yash Dhull (captain)
The middle-order batter from Delhi will have an opportunity to do what Mohammad Kaif (2000), Virat Kohli (2008), Unmukt Chand (2012) and Prithvi Shaw (2018) accomplished when they led India in the Under-19 World Cup. Dhull has the experience of leading Delhi’s U-16, U-19, and India ‘A’ U-19 sides, and as a batter, is often compared to Kohli and KL Rahul at the junior level. "He can play aggressive cricket without being unorthodox. He can play an all-around game and can switch modes quickly," his coaches told The Indian Express. When he was just six years old, Dhull’s mother spotted him shadow-practicing on the street without a bat and soon enrolled him at the Airliner Cricket Academy in Janakpuri.
The right-handed batter, who is also a handy offspinner, smashed 186* against Punjab in the Under-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy and was made captain of the Delhi side. He helped Delhi qualify for the knockouts after eight years and is often praised for his calmness on the field. He was already on the selectors' radar but still had to prove his worth in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy (302 runs at 75.50) and the Challenger Trophy (168 runs at 56), which he did in an astonishing fashion. He smashed three fifties and a century in eight innings and was straightaway named captain of the Indian side for the Asia Cup. He managed 115 runs in four innings in the recently concluded tournament and was also quite impressive with his bowling changes and field placements. The World Cup will serve as a massive stepping stone for Dhull, but the 19-year-old looks ready to take on the world.
The stylish left-handed batter comes from a proper cricketing family, with his grandfather Rajinder Singh and uncle Harminder Singh having played Ranji Trophy for Punjab. On top of that, his father Birinder Singh also represented the state at the U-19 level. He started as a fast bowler but his grandfather advised him to focus on his batting and the opener hasn’t looked back since.
He smoked more than 400 runs in Punjab’s title win in the Vijay Merchant Trophy in 2018 before moving to Chandigarh in 2019. Harnoor, who grew up in Jalandhar, scored 193 runs at an average of 48.25 in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy but it was in the Challenger Trophy where he forced everyone to sit up and take notice. He hammered three centuries in four innings and then also impressed in the Under-19s Triangular Series in Kolkata, scoring 191 runs in three innings. Then came the Asia Cup and Harnoor was named Player of the Series after amassing 251 runs in five innings, including a superb 120 against UAE in India’s opening encounter.
The right-handed opener is only 17 but has made quite a name for himself in junior cricket. The world got a glimpse of his talent when they got to watch him bat in the final of the Asia Cup against Sri Lanka. Raghuvanshi made 56* off 67 deliveries, studded with seven boundaries, and made short work of a 102-run target. Born in Delhi, Raghuvanshi moved to Mumbai at the age of 11 to train under former India all-rounder Abhishek Nayar. Raghuvanshi, who was part of Mumbai’s U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy-winning team in 2019, scored 214 runs in four matches of the U-19 Vinoo Mankad Trophy but had a mediocre Challenger Trophy, managing 141 runs in five innings at 28.20. But, he managed to turn things around in the tri-series, crafting 132 runs at an average of 44.
"When you see him batting in full flow, you feel that you're watching a young Rohit Sharma. The way he pulls the ball, hits it over covers, reminds you of Rohit in his early days. From what we saw of him in the selection matches and for the Mumbai under-19 team, he has time to play his strokes," Mumbai's under-19 chief selector Atul Ranade told Times of India.
Raghuvanshi comes from an out-and-out sporting family, with his father Avneesh having represented India in tennis, while her mother Malika was a volleyball. He is also a nephew of former Mumbai player Sahil Kukreja and it was he who asked Raghuvanshi to approach Nayar.
Shaik Rasheed (vice-captain)
One of the batting mainstays of the Indian team, Rasheed has been scoring runs for fun in recent times. The 17-year-old from Andhra Pradesh plundered a combined total of 805 runs at an average of more than 100, decorated with four centuries and as many fifties, in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, the Challenger Trophy and the tri-series. He struggled in the league stage of the Asia Cup but responded with scores of 90* and 31* in the semifinal and final respectively. However, Rasheed had his fair share of struggles too. He even thought of quitting the game after struggling for consistency at the U-14 and U-16 levels but his father Shaik Balisha stood behind him and ensured his son never gave up. And now, here he is, all set to play for his country in the World Cup.
Shravan Yadav, who owns a small general provisions store in Kotgaon, Ghaziabad, wanted to play for his country but ended up being just a net bowler. However, his passion for the game never diminished and is set to live his dream through his son, Siddharth. Shravan used to take his son to nearby ground and give him throwdowns every afternoon. "I closed my shop at 2 pm, and we would be at the ground until 6. Then I would go back to the shop," he told the Indian Express.
Ajay Yadav, father of another India under-19 cricketer Aaradhya Yadav, and former India cricketer Ajay Sharma took Siddarth under their wings and the young batter was selected in Uttar Pradesh’s U-16 team. Siddarth, who has been given a nickname ‘Jayasuriya’ by his friends and teammates, ended that season as their highest run-getter, slamming a double century and five fifties. He then amassed 361 runs at 120.33 in four innings in the Challenger Trophy, including a knock of 134 off 79 deliveries, and ended the competition as the second leading run-scorer.
The spin-bowling all-rounder played a huge role in Haryana clinching the last edition of the Vinoo Mankad Trophy - their first U-19 title in 19 years. It was also under his leadership, Haryana won the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy in 2019. Haryana didn’t lose a single game in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and Sindhu managed to make an impact both with the bat and ball. Apart from scoring 299 runs at 37.38, the left-arm spinner also scalped 12 wickets at a stunning average of 13.16. A son of a former state-level boxer from Rohtak, Sindhu didn’t really have a great Asia Cup and would be eager to stamp his authority in the forthcoming mega event.
The 18-year-old is a left-handed batter and a left-arm spinner from Bangalore, Karnataka. Gautam was also the captain of India B U-19 in the tri-series and scored a half-century and picked up one wicket in three encounters. He didn’t get any game-time during the Asia Cup, but did prove his worth in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy (239 runs at 79.67, seven wickets at 20.57) and Challenger Trophy (209 runs at 52.25, three wickets at 43.33). India are going with four spin-bowling all-rounders and Gautam will have to fight for his place in the XI.
The 17-year-old is an aggressive wicketkeeper-batter from Hisar, Haryana. Bana only featured in one game in the tri-series and didn’t get a single game in the Asia Cup, with Aaradhya Yadav playing as the wicketkeeper. By the looks of it, Aaradhya will be the first-choice wicketkeeper, but India could bring in Bana if they need a power-hitter in the middle-order.
Bana operated at an average of 90 in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy but actually fixed his place in the Indian team when he clobbered 170 off 98 deliveries in one of the Challenger Trophy encounters. Playing for India F, the right-hander blasted 10 fours and 14 maximums while chasing a target of 352 against India B. He didn’t get much support from other batters as his team fell short by just 15 runs. On his day, Bana can wreak havoc against any bowling attack and is particularly unstoppable against spinners.
Siddarth and Aaradhya have known each other for more than five years and have trained under the same coach, Ajay Sharma, in Ghaziabad. Aaradhya started taking cricket seriously after watching his elder brother Anchit practise. Aaradhya started as an all-rounder but soon switched to wicketkeeping after watching his idol MS Dhoni. His coach said he was a bit overweight and had to work really hard on his fitness.
"Aaradhya worked really hard on his fitness, and despite keeping the wickets for 50 overs, he used to open the innings. Aaradhya can finish games. I call him 'Aaradhya Not Out'," Ajay Sharma told Times of India. The right-hander scored a fifty against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, but apart from that, has only managed 26 runs in his last five innings. India might still start the World Cup with him, but with Bana waiting in the wings, Aaradhyan will have to hit the ground running from the word go.
Raj Angad Bawa
Just like Harnoor, Raj too comes from a sporting family. In fact, the UTCA Chandigarh and PML SD College players are very close friends and have been playing together since the age of 13. Raj’s grandfather Tarlochan Singh Bawa was part of the 1948 Olympics gold medal-winning Indian hockey team, while his father Sukhwinder Bawa happens to be the coach of former Indian all-rounder Yuvraj Singh. “When Raj started cricket, he started as a medium pacer. I always knew that I could work on his bowling at a later stage and worked on his batting alone. It has helped him to grow as an all-rounder and he has spent a lot of time on his bowling in the last three years,” his father told The Indian Express.
Raj, who bowls right-arm pace and is an attacking left-handed batter, impressed everyone with his all-round skills in the U-19 Challenger Trophy, claiming eight wickets and scoring 154 runs. Even in the Asia Cup, Raj managed 91 runs in three innings and also picked up eight wickets at an average of 21.37, including a four-wicket haul against Pakistan in Dubai. India would need Harnoor and Raj to be at their best in the World Cup and if they can play to their potential, the duo can light up the showpiece event.
An offspinner from Tamil Nadu who can bat… No, we are not talking about either R Ashwin or Washington Sundar. However, Parakh did become the first Tamil Nadu player to be part of India’s Under-19 World Cup squad since Washington featured in the 2016 edition of the tournament. He was phenomenal in the 2018 Vijay Merchant Trophy, smashing 408 runs in seven outings and also bagging 23 wickets. However, a knee injury ruled him out for 12 months and then the pandemic happened, delaying his comeback by another year.
“The last two years have made me stronger mentally. There were numerous times when self-doubts clouded me. It can be hard for someone my age to miss two years of cricket. But the belief I had in myself helped me wade through the tough times," he told Times of India. His parents and elder brother helped too, waking him up at 4 in the morning to go for practise. Parakh kept working hard and made a superb comeback this season. Across the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, the Challenger Trophy and the triangular series, he claimed 21 wickets at an economy of 3.99 and also scored 154 runs. Parakh is a big fan of Ashwin and Washington and is eager to follow in his statemates’ footsteps.
A son of an assistant commissioner of police in Maharashtra, Tambe comes from Otur village, located in Junnar sub-district of Pune. After doing well at U-16 and U-19 levels, Tambe also dominated the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy. The all-rounder accumulated 462 runs at an average of 57.75 but surprisingly didn't bowl much, which fortunately hasn’t been the case with the Indian U-19 side. In the tri-series and Asia Cup, Tambe mostly batted in the lower-order but did bowl a lot of overs. The offspinner picked up nine wickets in the tri-series and Asia Cup and also chipped in with three 30-plus scores. Tambe could prove to be handy in the World Cup as he will provide balance in both departments.
It’s not surprising that Hangargekar has already made his List A and T20 debut for Maharashtra. You have a well-built fast bowler who can also smash sixes down the order, that’s a rare breed in Indian cricket. Interestingly, Hangargekar started his career as an offspinner for the Osmanabad district U-14 team but had to switch to fast bowling as his side didn't have a proper pacer. He worked under coach Mohan Jadhav in Pune and trainer-cum-mentor Tejas Matapurkar at the Veerangan Cricket Academy and soon started clicking 140 kmph.
Known as Marathwada Express, Hangargekar lost his father to Covid-19 last year and it took him a while to get his mojo back. He was astonishing in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, picking up 23 wickets in 11 encounters. On top of that, Hangargekar also smacked 236 runs at a strike rate of more than 135. He smoked 17 sixes in 11 encounters, not bad for someone who mostly bats at No. 8. He was also impressive in the Asia Cup, and many IPL franchises will have their eyes set on the flamboyant fast-bowling all-rounder.
Standing at six feet two inches, Vats hails from Berkhedi, a small village in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. His father is a principal in a private school, while his mother is a teacher in a government school, but Vats was never interested in studies. He used to travel to Gangoh every single day to practice at Vishwamitra Cricket Academy and it didn't take him too long to make a name for himself in junior cricket. In the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, the right-arm paceman took 21 wickets in 10 outings. In a Vinoo Mankad Trophy encounter against Nagaland, Vats claimed eight wickets in an innings, including a hat-trick. Vats only played one game in the tri-series before he suffered an injury and was sent back to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore for recovery. He didn’t feature in the Asia Cup as well, probably as a precautionary measure, and will be raring to go in the World Cup.
The all-rounder, who bats right-handed and bowls left-arm spin, was Player of the Match in the Asia Cup final. The 19-year-old scalped three wickets and conceded only 11 runs in his eight overs. Apart from claiming 11 wickets, the all-rounder from Maharashtra also scored a total of 291 runs in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy. Ostwal was at his best in the Asia Cup, picking up eight wickets in five encounters, that too at an economy of just over 2. What’s more, he is also a handy hitter down the order.
The 18-year-old from Bengal is the only left-arm quick in the squad. Just like many other left-arm seamers, Ravi’s biggest strength is that he can bring the ball back in and is generally very accurate with his line and length. In the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, Ravi took 15 wickets in nine outings and operated at an economy of close to 4.5. Even in the Asia Cup, he had the best economy amongst all Indian seamers. The left-armer will provide India that much-needed variety in the World Cup.
The right-arm seamer was Haryana’s leading wicket-taker when they won the last edition of the Vinoo Mankad Trophy. Sangwan picked up 13 wickets in seven outings and then also emerged as the highest wicket-taker in the Challenger Trophy, taking 13 wickets at a spectacular average of 11.07. His performance in the aforementioned competitions helped him cement his place in the World Cup squad. The tall fast bowler comes from Bhiwani, also known as "Mini Cuba" of India due to the large number of boxers who hail from the region. Sangwan, who has been playing cricket since 2010, will probably start as a back-up for Hangargekar and Raj Bawa.
(Images credit: Asian Cricket Council)