Several gains

The victorious India under-19 team.-S.S. KUMAR

In the recently concluded under-19 Test series in Sri Lanka, India defeated the host 1-0 in a two-match series. The side outplayed Sri Lanka by 182 runs in the first Test, in Colombo, and had the upper hand in the second Test, in Kandy, which was drawn. S. Dinakar analyses the performance of the youngsters.

The Indian team should be a serious contender in the under-19 cricket World Cup to be held in Malaysia next February.

This is a side that has learnt to win and do so consistently. The Indian boys have scored the double (Test and one-day series triumphs) in England, Pakistan, New Zealand and now Sri Lanka.

During this period, the side has also come up trumps in the quadrangular one-day tournament in Malaysia.

In the recently concluded under-19 Test series in Sri Lanka, India defeated the host 1-0 in a two-match series. The side outplayed Sri Lanka by 182 runs in the first Test, in Colombo, and had the upper hand in the second Test, in Kandy, which was drawn.

Earlier, India clinched a triangular one-day competition, also featuring Bangladesh and the host. Significantly, India defeated Bangladesh in the final, and Sri Lanka in two league matches.

No wonder coach Lalchand Rajput is delighted. “The boys have come together well as a unit. They are helping each other out. They have been positive and responded well to tough situations. They have also shown the killer instinct on the field. These are very good signs,” he said.

Importantly, the lads are willing to learn. Abhinav Mukund did not start the tour well, and he was told to play straighter rather than squarer. The left-handed opener was soon driving the ball regularly between mid-off and mid-on.

Says Rajput, “the transformation was dramatic.”

Abhinav notched up a half-century in the second innings of the first Test and followed this with efforts of 205 and 108 in the second.

There were several other gains. Virat Kohli, showed he could bat under pressure by coming up with a valuable 144 when India had lost five wickets for little in the first Test. It proved a match-winning effort. In the second Test, when India was seeking quick runs, he blazed a 51-ball 94.

Skipper Tanmay Srivatsava, who Rajput says is mentally strong, led the side competently and made a hundred in the second Test.

Pradeep Sangwan produced runs in stressful situations, and bowled his left-arm seamers with purpose. India seeks all-rounders and Sangwan has possibilities.

India also needs spinners — the National side lacks depth in this department — and there were encouraging signs from two left-armers, Ravindra Jadeja and K. P. Appanna during the tour.

Jadeja has a useful arm-ball and is consistent with his length and direction. He destroyed the Lankan batting in the first Test with a match-haul of nine for 33. Appanna, who flights the ball more, had his share of success too. Rajput says off-spinner G. V. S. Prasad needs to develop variations. Sadly, there was no leg-spinner in the squad and this is a definite area of concern.

The pace attack, according to Rajput, holds much promise. Dhaval Kulkarni has a handy outswinger and does not waste the new ball; in other words he makes the batsmen play. Amanpreet Singh can move the ball at a lively pace while Abu Nechim Ahmed, who was impressive in the one-dayers, achieves lift and can get the ball to reverse from a sling action. “He can surprise you with his pace,” says Rajput.

The Indian coach says Sri Lanka was a worthy opponent, particularly in bowling and fielding. “Defeating the side at home is a fine performance.”

There were also some creditable batting displays from the host. Lokuge Chandimal’s 143 saved the second Test for Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the Indian boys want to consolidate on the gains. India, on a request from Rajput, could tour Australia, ahead of the under-19 World Cup.

These boys mean business.