ICC U-19 World Cup: Top India players to watch out for

India, a record four-time champion in the tournament, will begin its campaign on Saturday in Group B alongside South Africa, Ireland and Uganda.

Harnoor Singh (left) and S. K. Rasheed. Both shone in the recent warm-up game against Australia.   -  THE HINDU

The 14th edition of the ICC U-19 World Cup will begin on Friday with 16 teams in contention for the global silverware on the Caribbean Islands.

India, a record four-time champion in the tournament, will begin its campaign on Saturday in Group B alongside South Africa, Ireland and Uganda. 

The U-19 World Cup, over its long course since 1988, has produced a host of superstars that went on to become dominant performers for the national side. The biennial event has gifted India several star performers, ranging from Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh in the formative years to current stalwarts Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

Ahead of the 2022 edition, here's a look at the Indian youngsters who could light up the tournament with their precocious abilities.

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Rajvardhan Hangargekar

A year after his senior debut for Maharashtra, 19-year-old Rajvardhan Hangargekar will be among the leaders of the Indian seam attack in the West Indies. The right-arm pacer revelled on his List A debut in early 2021 with figures of 4/42 against Himachal Pradesh in the Vijay Hazare Trophy where he finished with 10 wickets in five matches, including two 4-fers. 

Besides his incisive bowling up-front, Hangargekar doubles up as a firm striker with a penchant for big sixes. Hangargekar's all-around prowess had him score 216 runs from eight innings in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy with a record 16 sixes and two fifties. He finished second on the wicket-takers charts with 19 scalps at an average under 12. Hangargekar also racked up eight wickets from five outings during India's victorious Asia Cup campaign in December.

Harnoor Singh

Eighteen-year-old Harnoor Singh moves into the marquee event in the West Indies on the back of a rich vein of form that has stretched over four months. The Jalandhar-born southpaw who honed his skills in Chandigarh lit up the U-19 Challenger Trophy with 418 runs in four innings with three centuries to his name. Harnoor followed it up with another hundred in the U-19 Triangular series in early December before topping the run-charts in the U-19 Asia Cup in the UAE with 251 runs in five matches, comprising a 120 against the host. 

Harnoor's purple patch has certainly hit the Caribbean shores as he warmed up with an unbeaten 100 against Australia in India's second practice fixture in Guyana.

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Raj Angad Bawa 

Nineteen-year-old Raj Angad Bawa has emerged as a key figure in the Indian side after his all-around exploits in the recent U-19 tournaments. The Himachal-born Raj Angad hails from a family of sporting riches. His grandfather, Tarlochan Singh Bawa was a key member of the 1948 Olympic gold-winning Indian team while his father Sukhwinder Singh was the coach of Yuvraj Singh. 

A hard-hitting left-hand batter and a crafty right-arm medium pacer, Raj Angad displayed glimpses of his skill during the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Challenger Trophy in October - November 2021. He picked up eight wickets from four matches during the U-19 Asia Cup in the UAE and will be hoping to chip in with consistent performances across both departments in the West Indies.

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Yash Dhull

An "instinctive captain" in the words of team India coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, 19-year-old Yash Dhull from Delhi has risen through the rungs with his leadership skills duly complementing his batsmanship. 

Dhull, who has previously led Delhi in the U-16 and U-19 categories, was elected skipper on the back of firm knocks in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and Challenger Trophy. Dhull's first assignment as India skipper was a successful one as he led the side to the Asia Cup title in the UAE in late December. After a string of low scores under his belt, Dhull has perhaps bounced back in time with two fifties in India's tune-up fixtures in the West Indies before its opener on Saturday.

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Siddharth Yadav

Siddharth Yadav has stormed into the U-19 World Cup squad on the back of a blistering run in the U-19 Challenger Trophy. The 18-year-old from Ghaziabad notched up 361 runs in four innings to finish as the tournament's second-highest scorer. Siddharth launched 19 sixes, the most for any batter during the tournament. A 15-ball 42 (unbeaten) for India A U-19 in the Triangular series boosted his credentials as a floater-finisher and is likely to don a similar role for India in the World Cup. 

SK Rasheed

Andhra Pradesh youngster SK Rasheed has set the domestic U-19 scene on fire with a truckload of runs over the last five months. Rasheed's age-defying maturity on the field has duly been rewarded with the vice-captain's role for the World Cup. 

A cornerstone of the Indian U-19 batting line-up, Rasheed heads into the tournament after finding his name among the top four run-getters in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, Challenger Trophy and the U-19 Triangular series. While his strike rate languishes in the 70s, Rasheed's firm stroke play gathered him 168 runs in five innings in the U-19 Asia Cup. A knock of 72 n.o. (ret. hurt) against Australia in the practice game has affirmed that Rasheed will lead this Indian side's fortunes with the bat as it lays eyes on a fifth title. 

Ravi Kumar

The sole left-armer in the Indian bowling attack, Ravi Kumar has begun his final preparatory laps in West Indies in style. The 18-year-old ripped through the Australian batting order in India's second practice game with figures of 4/34. While wickets eluded him for a fair bit of the U-19 Asia Cup, Ravi kept the lid on the scoring rate with an excellent economy rate of 4.75 and is likely to share the new-ball duties with Hangargekar during the World Cup this month. 

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