The inaugural Under-19 World Cup, also known as the Youth Cricket World Cup, was introduced in 1988 on the occasion of the Australia Bicentenary in the island nation – marking a perfect launch-pad for young cricketers.
Ever since then and its formal instigation as the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 1998, several teenage stars have made the transition from age-group cricket to the senior level in national colours on cricket’s biggest platforms.
From the past 12 editions, here are some of the best Indian players to have played in the U-19 World Cup before making their name in the men’s game.
Yuvraj Singh (2000)
India’s limited-overs stalwart Yuvraj Singh began his youth ODI career in blazing fashion in the 2000 edition. The stylish southpaw’s 203 runs with two-half centuries and 12 wickets culminated in India’s first Under-19 World Cup title after beating Sri Lanka in the final in Colombo. Yuvraj was awarded the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award which marked him as the find of the series. Unsurprisingly, the talented youngster made his national debut against Kenya in the ICC Knockout Trophy in Nairobi within a few months.
In a decorated career, Yuvraj was crucial to India’s ICC tournament wins in 2007 T20 World Cup and 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. His all-round show in the World Cup saw him bag yet another ‘Player of the Tournament’ award. Yuvraj hung up his boots in 2019 after an illustrious 19-year career.
Mohammad Kaif (1998, 2000)
India’s moderate campaign in the second edition of the Under-19 World Cup witnessed streaks of brilliance from a young 17-year old Mohammad Kaif. In a campaign which came to an end in the Super-Eights, Kaif was India’s biggest promise with the bat – 251 runs and three half-centuries to his name.
His performance spoke for itself as Kaif was chosen to captain the under-19 side in the 2000 World Cup. Young Kaif’s captaincy coupled with an all-round team performance culminated in India winning its first ICC Under-19 World Cup. In a career which spanned over a hundred ODI matches, Kaif was considered as one of the best Indian fielders who redefined the dynamics of Indian fielding, alongside Yuvraj.
Virender Sehwag (1998)
The Nawab of Najafgarh was a part of the under-19 side which travelled to South Africa. A year later, Sehwag made his ODI debut against Pakistan before setting the stage on fire with a cracking ton on test debut in South Africa.
In a national career spanning over a decade, Sehwag went on to redefine the dynamics of a modern-day opener with 7500-plus runs in the position in both Tests and ODIs – the only player in history to do so.
Harbhajan Singh (1998)
One of India’s leading wicket-takers and the most successful off-spinner from the country, Harbhajan Singh was part of the 1998 India U-19 squad. With eight wickets from six matches, he was quick to impress the selectors who fast-tracked his transition into the national-side – handing the youngster his senior India debut two months later against Australia. He went on to bag over 600 international wickets.
Irfan Pathan (2002)
The Parthiv Patel-led 2002 under-19 team saw the first of a young Irfan on the international stage. With his immense ability to swing the new-ball and hold a steady bat down the order, a lot of expectations fell on the Baroda all-rounder post his international debut in 2003. Irfan was the Man-of-the-Match in the final of a victorious maiden T20 World Cup campaign in 2007.
Shikhar Dhawan (2004)
If there is an ICC tournament around the corner, Shikhar Dhawan is the go-to-batsman. A young Dhawan was no different from the player we have been accustomed to in the last decade.
Dhawan set the 2004 Under-19 World Cup on fire with his unprecedented batting performance in the tournament. The Indian opener’s sparkling run saw him amass 505 runs with three hundreds and a fifty – a record which stands to date for the most runs in a single edition of the tournament.
Dhawan won the Golden Bat in the 2013 and 2017 Champions Trophy and was also India’s leading run-scorer in the 2015 World Cup.
Rohit Sharma (2006)
In an agonising campaign which ended with a loss in the final against Pakistan, Cheteshwar Pujara remained the leading light who eventually was named the Player-of-the-Series. But the selectors banked on the immense talent of a young Rohit Sharma, by drafting the Mumbai batsman into India’s maiden T20 World Cup squad. With crucial cameos in crunch matches against South Africa and Pakistan in the final, Rohit impressed on his maiden international assignment.
Post 2013, Rohit has settled into the role of an opener and has transformed himself into one of the world’s most prolific limited-overs batsman.
Virat Kohli (2008)
The most prolific batsman among the current cricketers, Virat Kohli’s hunger to succeed and scale new peaks stemmed from his under-19 days, after having led the side to victory under his captaincy. He finished as the tournament’s third-highest run scorer and went on to make his ODI debut in the same year. In a glorious decade for Indian cricket, Virat Kohli has emerged at its helm – with over 20,000 international runs and being successful as a captain across all three formats.
Ravindra Jadeja (2006, 2008)
India’s joint-highest wicket taker at the 2008 under-19 World Cup with 10 wickets, Jadeja played his second World Cup and picked two key wickets in the final. The southpaw having played two World Cups, has established himself as one of India’s leading all-rounders across formats over the past decade.
KL Rahul (2010)
Karnataka’s premier batsman scored 143 runs from six outings for the U-19 side. The 27-year-old has been in and out of the squad but his talent is undeniable. One of three Indian batsmen to score a hundred across formats, Rahul is slowly coming into his element.