Rahul Dravid’s wards will start as firm favourites when hosts India meet Bangladesh in the Under-19 tri-series final, here tomorrow. Under the astute leadership of the former India captain, the bunch of 20-member Indian squad have outplayed both Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the double round-robin stage of the preparatory tournament for the ICC Under-19 World Cup from January 22 to February 14.
The Indian batting legend has cleverly rotated the XI in the four matches to get the combination right ahead of the showpiece event in Bangladesh next year and the boys, too, have responded, securing four wins out of four including two with bonus point. Dravid’s boys will look to pocket the series and fly with confidence to Sri Lanka for another tri-nation series involving England before embarking on the World Cup in Bangladesh.
Andhra Pradesh lad Ricky Bhui, who has his roots in Bengal, led the side in the first two matches, while Jharkhand’s Virat Singh was the skipper in their last two, as despite playing together at international level for the first time, they never showed problem against the two teams.
“This tournament is about giving people the opportunity and rotating the players. It’s really creditable since 16 or 17 boys are playing Under-19 cricket for the first time, compared to say Bangladesh, who have been preparing for a really long time,” Dravid told reporters.
“Obviously, they are preparing for the World Cup, but at the end of the day it’s more than that. It’s about hoping that some of these boys go on to represent India in the future and how we can help them in those journeys...”
Rishabh Pant prolific for India
Attacking left-hander from Delhi, Rishabh Pant, who also doubles up as a wicketkeeper, will be the fulcrum of Indian batting as he has been the tournament’s leading run-getter with his scores of 118, 51 and 87 from three matches. The Delhi opener is capable of giving the team a flying start while the likes of Washington Sundar from Chennai, Virat and Bhui lend stability down the order.
A fan of former Aussie wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, Pant is a natural timer of the ball and his elegant drives and lofted sixes over the bowler make him the one to watch out for. India were bowled out for 158 in the first match against Bangladesh — their only sub-200 score in the tournament — in a match Pant did not figure in the XI but his inclusion in the remaining matches has spiced up the home team’s batting.
In bowling, India have the tall Indore speedster in Avesh Khan who impressed with his 4 for 4 to bowl Bangladesh out for 76 in the first match to help them coast to a comfortable 82-run win while defending a paltry 159 in the first match.
Avesh bowls with a high arm, steady action and has a lethal off-cutter with which he had dismissed Bangladesh opener Saif Hassan in the very first ball as he would like the ball to do the talking.
Left-arm pacer duo of Khaleel Ahmed, who bagged 4 for 41 against Afghanistan in the only match he played, and Kanishk Seth will give them other options. Fresh from his five-for against Afghanistan yesterday, Lucknow boy Zeeshan Ansari, who bowls immaculate leg spin, will also look to make an impact.
Bangladesh, who made the final beating Afghanistan twice, are yet to win against India, something that would bother the team led by Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who has taken eight wickets and scored a fighting 87 against India. While their spinners, including the left-armer Saleh Ahmed Sahwon Gazi, have impressed it’s the batsmen who have let the team down as the key for the neighbouring nation would be to put up a solid batting display.