India under-23 bobs to the top

The victorious Indian team in Singapore.-AP

India has talent to spare in cricket as was seen recently in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup in Singapore. P.K. Ajith Kumar takes stock.

If there is something that is in abundance in Indian cricket, it is talent. The Shikhar Dhawans and the Bhuvneshwar Kumars keep reminding us of that fact. The Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams Cup in Singapore recently too proved that all was well with India’s young cricketers.

India’s Under-23 team won the tournament, with a thumping nine-wicket win over Pakistan in the final at the Kallang Ground. “We were determined to win the Cup and we knew we had the team to do it,” India’s coach Mukund Parmar told Sportstar. “We played very good cricket throughout and we had several positives from the tournament. The batting of K. L. Rahul, who also kept wicket for us, was a revelation and just about every bowler was amongst the wickets.”

Rahul was in devastating form with the bat and fittingly it was his 93 not out (107b, 84min, 11 x 4, 1 x 6) that ensured India would romp home in the final, after bowling Pakistan out for 159. India won with over 16 overs to spare.

Rahul’s scores in other matches were: 43 against UAE in the semifinal, 46 against Pakistan (league match), 88 against Nepal and 51 against Afghanistan. He finished as the tournament’s highest run-getter, with 321 runs at an average of 80.25. Little wonder, the other Rahul from Bangalore, Dravid, too is impressed by the 21-year-old.

“He is a fabulous player and one for the future certainly,” says Parmar. “He has good technique and strokes; he is a fine ’keeper too. I had asked him to concentrate on his batting for the Singapore tournament and I am glad that he listened to my advice.”

The coach is also impressed with the batting of Unmukt Chand and Manprit Juneja. “They ensured that we put enough runs on the board, though the wicket was not easy to bat on and the outfield was slow,” he says. “Our bowlers were consistent too. Seamers Sandeep Sharma, Sandeep Warrier and Jasprit Bumrah are all very promising. Spinners Akshar Patil and B. Aparajith too were excellent.”

The Indians did have one hiccup in the tournament, though. They were beaten by Afghanistan in the last league encounter. “We batted second and the wicket was giving a lot of assistance to the spinners,” Parmar says. “Afghanistan has some pretty good spinners and theirs is not a bad side actually.”

He says it was gratifying to beat Pakistan twice in the tournament. “I think the Pakistanis played with too much emotion against us, but we took it easy,” he says. “They have some good players, like Hammad Azam, Bilwal Bhatti and Usman Qadir, son of Abdul Qadir.”

It was with a three-wicket win against Pakistan that India opened its campaign. Sandeep Warrier was the architect of that victory, claiming three for 32 off nine overs, in what was his debut for an Indian side.

“I could bowl with good pace and swing with the new ball,” says the wiry pace bowler from Kerala. “It was great to be part of a strong side and to win a tournament that featured good teams.”

* * * THE SCORES

Final: Pakistan 159 in 47 overs (Umar Waheed 41, Usman Qadir 33, B. Aparajith three for 28) lost to India 160 for one in 33.4 overs (K. L. Rahul 93 not out, Manprit Juneja 51 not out).

Semifinals: India 208 in 49.5 overs (K. L. Rahul 43, Manprit Juneja 76, Ashok Menaria 30, Nasir Aziz five for 51, Mohammed Naveed three for 37) bt UAE 162 in 48.3 overs (Shaiman Anwar 44, Swapnil Patil 41, Akshar Patel four for 29).

Sri Lanka 230 for seven in 50 overs (Udara Jayasundera 94, Shehan Jayasuriya 33, Usman Qadir five for 32) lost to Pakistan 232 for nine in 48.5 overs (Usman Salahuddin 31, Hammad Azam 66 not out, Amila Aponos three for 31).

India’s league matches:

Pakistan 191 for seven in 50 overs (Umar Waheed 46, Usman Salahuddin 61, Sandeep Warrier three for 32) lost to India 192 for seven in 47.5 overs (K. L. Rahul 46, Unmukt Chand 61, Raza Hasan three for 39).

India 268 for five in 50 overs (K. L. Rahul 88, Unmukt Chand 61, Suryakumar Yadav 65, Basant Regmi three for 90) bt Nepal 184 for eight in 50 overs (Subash Kakurel 29, Sagar Pun 52 not out, Ankit Bawne three for 36).

Afghanistan 184 for seven in 50 overs (Mohammad Shazad 38, Samiulla Shenwari 43 not out) bt India 156 for nine in 50 overs (K. L. Rahul 51, Ankit Bawne 39, Mohammad Nabi three for 32).