India has been searching for an effective left-arm pacer for a while now. It has been a struggle for the selectors to fill in the void ever since the retirements of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra.
K. Khaleel Ahmed from the U-19 batch of 2016 appeared in a few games before fading into oblivion. T. Natarajan had a promising start till injuries paused his growth.
Bengal pacer Ravi Kumar, who has been training under the watchful eyes of former India international Devang Gandhi in Kolkata, is the new kid on the block. The 18-year-old, currently plying his trade in the ICC U-19 World Cup in the West Indies, is raw and fresh.
He can move the ball both ways and can deliver unplayable cutters.
Son of a CRPF jawan, Ravi was born in Kolkata. His family had moved to Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, where he started playing tennis-ball cricket. Local coach Arvind Bhardwaj helped him find his feet in the sport, which eventually brought him back to the city of his birth. He has represented Howrah Union and Ballygunge United Club in the maidans of Kolkata.
Former BCCI selector Gandhi, the coach of the Bengal U-19 side, rates him highly. "He is a top-quality bowler. He is tall. He has a smooth action and can move the ball both ways; an extremely hard-working boy," he told Sportstar .
Gandhi highlighted how being a left-arm fast bowler is an advantage in any tournament irrespective of conditions. "He is calm and level-headed and a quick learner. Any U-19 boy will feel challenged in a big tournament like a World Cup but that is one area that will develop over a course of time. He is the only guy who is a left-handed fast bowler. He can bring the ball in, and it will not be easy for the batters. Even in the domestic games, he has played, he has picked up wickets early on, which you want from an attacking bowler."
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"I just told him his strengths and the areas to work on before he left for the World Cup. Every net session was based on those two areas. At times, in order to develop something you don't want to lose your primary skills."
Gandhi feels Ravi can definitely "fill the slot" of a left-arm pacer in the Indian team in future because the youngster understands the importance of diet, gym, training and all that goes into the making of an international cricketer.
Ravi returned 4/34 in the warm-up game against Australia U-19, and picked up one wicket against Ireland. Unfortunately, he was not bowling his full quota in the league stages.
On Saturday, in the quarterfinal against Bangladesh in Antigua, the youngster returned 3/14 and earned the Player of the Match award as India won by five wickets.
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