Mangaung in Sesotho, the southern Bantu language of the Sotho-Tswana, means the ‘place of cheetahs’. And it is the base camp of the Indian teenagers as they start their ICC U-19 World Cup campaign against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Trust the defending champion to be at its wild best. You need that ferocity to tackle the pace and harsh bounce on offer. The Mangaung Oval, in Bloemfontein, will host three India matches in the league stages. After meeting the Islanders, the colts will take on Japan (on January 21) and New Zealand (on January 24).
So how challenging is it for a youngster to handle the pressure of a World Cup? Unmukt Chand, the U-19 World Cup winner of 2012, stressed on the process that develops over a period of time. “They have played a few tournaments before this, so I don’t think they need to do anything different. You don’t need to get too excited, just approach match after match and do things as and when required.
“We have a great bunch of players who are in this team and a couple of them have played Ranji Trophy also,” the former U-19 captain told Sportstar on Friday.
The colts, coached by former India international Paras Mhambrey, clinched the Quadrangular Under-19 series barely 10 days ago. There are stars such as Yashasvi Jaiswal and Atharva Ankolekar (from Mumbai) and skipper Priyam Garg (from Uttar Pradesh). All of them are proven performers.
Chand remembered that even his side had had a great preparation leading to the Cup. And the presence of seasoned youngsters — such as Hanuma Vihari, Vijay Zol and Baba Aparajith — made his job easier as captain. “For any young cricketer, it is the biggest platform. It turned out to be a good tournament for us. Great memories. Even before the tournament, the preparation and the build-up to it were great.
“We had two players who had played the U-19 World Cup before. It was a good combination as we were together for two to three years before the Cup. So when we got together, we knew what each of us had to offer. And we were sticking to the plan that was formulated for the last two years [before 2012] being together. We knew what had to be done. It was not very difficult for me,” said Chand, who scored a match-winning 111 against Australia in the final.
Chand or Vihari did not have the luck of Prithvi Shaw — the U-19 skipper of 2018. The right-hander led his side to Cup victory, under coach Rahul Dravid, and within a few months, was opening the batting for the senior Test side.
In fact, Vihari made his Test debut just a few months before Shaw, while Chand is rebuilding his career through the Ranji Trophy grind.
On life after the U-19 World Cup, the 26-year-old Chand said, “It depends from person to person. For one player, it may take time to get into the senior side. You can’t compare one’s journey with the other. You have to wait for your chance. You just need to keep getting better. When the actual time comes, you need to be ready. Keep scoring runs, keep thinking about the game and keep getting better.”
At present, Delhi boy Chand is the captain of the Uttarakhand side. He shifted base in 2019.
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