A perfect Sunday it was

India’s skipper Virat Kohli with the World Cup.-AP

The Indian Colts were definitely way ahead of the other teams in terms of technical skills, maturity and collective will to win. It would have been shocking if they had not won the big prize, writes W. V. Raman.

Good preparation is half the battle won goes the saying which is apt in the case of the triumphant India under-19 side. The preparatory journey started 15 months back when the India under-19 side toured New Zealand, followed by tours to Kuala Lumpur and Sri Lanka in 2007. A tour to South Africa prior to the World Cup enabled the boys to gel as a team, which they did without any fuss.

The tours exposed the boys to different conditions and different cricketing cultures which enriched their experience. They were also subjected to working under different coaches and the varying methods advocated by the different coaches hopefully have broadened their knowledge base. Besides, the frequent changes in the team to various destinations ensured that the Indian Colts were well and truly prepared for any eventuality.

The expectations were high when the Indian Colts left for their campaign in the World Cup as they won just about everything on all earlier trips. They had to live up to the high standards they had set, which added to the pressure.

The passage to the final was smooth as the Colts won the group matches with ease. While Papa New Guinea were no match at all, the South Africans were decimated with precision and the West Indies were taught a few lessons. The flip side of the facile wins in the group matches was that the middle order batsmen did not get a decent hit out save for the skipper Virat Kohli.

The India team celebrates after dismissing dangerman Wayne Parnell, the South African skipper, in the final.-AP

The knockout phase brought the stronger cricketing nations into the frame with all the three teams from the sub-continent still in the race. India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have dominated at the junior level as there is a lot of structured cricket played in these countries. A clash between India and Pakistan was anticipated but South Africa played with purpose and raised their game in the knockout phase to eliminate Pakistan.

The South Africans had quality fast bowlers in Parnell and Arnold and they were backed up by extraordinary fielding. The batsmen played positively right through but they struggled against the spinners. They restricted Pakistan through some disciplined bowling though they were fortunate to some extent that rains came to their rescue at a crucial stage. The Indians on the other hand had to overcome some tense moments against New Zealand in the semifinals while chasing a revised target.

The final between India and South Africa was a battle between two familiar opponents as they were involved in frequent encounters since the start of this year. The South African skipper Parnell along with his new ball partner Arnold rattled the strong Indian batting line-up and restricted them to 159. The Indian batsmen were consistent over a long period of time and the law of averages caught up with them on the wrong day.

During the break, the Indian Colts would have felt the jitters but they held their nerves and restricted the South Africans who were chasing a revised target to regain the World Cup.

The Indian Colts were definitely way ahead of the other teams in terms of technical skills and maturity apart from being a well balanced side. They had effective seamers in Ajitesh Argal and Siddarth Kaul with Pradeep Sangwan leading the pack. The left-arm spin duo of Jadeja and Iqbal Abdullah tied the batsmen up in knots. The batting line-up comprised talented stroke-makers like Tanmay Srivastav, Virat Kohli, Sourabh Tiwary and Manish Pandey. Wicket-keeper Srivastav Goswami doubled up as an opener along with Turuwar Kohli. These advantages notwithstanding, the Indian Colts were outstanding in assessing situations and playing according to them. Suffice to say that I would have been shocked if they were to fail to regain the World Cup.

Every member of the team contributed to the triumph and put his hand up to be counted. While Sangwan and Virat Kohli made an impact with incisive spells and destructive batting respectively, Srivastav scored runs consistently. The support bowlers, Argal and Kaul, chipped in with wickets when required and the spinners restricted the runs in the middle overs.

Virat Kohli handled the team with imagination and was not averse to sending down a few overs himself when his bowlers were off colour. The win could not have come at a better time as Indian cricket is looking at the future as some of the seniors are in the evening of their careers. A lot of cricketers have been unearthed from the India under-19 teams in the past and obviously the current bunch would be looking to be picked for higher honours.

Yuvraj and Kaif burst into international cricket due to their stellar roles in the Youth World Cup triumph in 2000. The current team does have some exciting batting talent in Kohli, Tiwary and Pandey, but they still have some way to go before they can aspire for the senior cap.

Sangwan is the one to watch out for as he not only has done well for the Indian Colts but also for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy. He will probably be the one to scale the ladder sooner than the rest but I am sure that a few others from this side will join him in the years to come. It has been a long wait since 2000 but the way Kohli and boys regained the Cup in style was worth the wait.

THE SCORES ICC Under-19 World Cup final.

India Under-19s v South Africa Under-19s, Kuala Lumpur, March 2. India Under-19s won by 12 runs (D/L method).

India Under-19s: T. Kohli c Malan b Parnell 1; S. P. Goswami c Hendricks b Arnold 6; T. M. Srivastava c Engelbrecht b Adams 46; V. Kohli c Engelbrecht b Malan 19; S. Tiwary (run out) 20; M. Pandey c Barnes b Arnold 20; R. A. Jadeja c Vandiar b Vallie 11; Iqbal Abdulla (run out) 9; P. Sangwan c Barnes b Adams 13; S. Kaul (not out) 1; A. K. Argal c Barnes b Parnell 1; Extras (lb-2, w-10) 12. Total (in 45.4 overs) 159.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-27, 3-74, 4-83, 5-120, 6-122, 7-137, 8-150, 9-158.

South Africa bowling: Parnell 7.4-2-21-2; Arnold 10-0-30-2; Malan 9-1-23-1; Adams 8-0-38-2; Vallie 9-0-33-1; Engelbrecht 2-0-12-0.

South Africa Under-19s: P. J. Malan c Goswami b Argal 2; J. T. Smuts (run out) 5; R. R. Rossouw c Jadeja b Argal 0; R. R. Hendricks c Goswami b Jadeja 35; J. D. Vandiar c Goswami b Jadeja 3; W. D. Parnell c Pandey b Kaul 29; R. A. Adams lbw b Iqbal Abdulla 1; B. G. Barnes b Kaul 19; M. Arnold (not out) 1; Extras (lb-5, w-3) 8. Total (for eight wkts., in 25 overs) 103.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-6, 3-11, 4-22, 5-72, 6-75, 7-102, 8-103.

India bowling: Sangwan 5-2-14-0; Argal 5-2-7-2; Jadeja 5-0-25-2; Kaul 5-0-26-2; Iqbal Abdulla 5-0-26-1.