ICC U-19 World Cup 2018: India juniors showed maturity beyond their years to excel on big stage

It was the 39th over of the Australian innings and the scoreboard read 183/4. With both the batsmen in Jonathan Merlo and Nathan McSweeney well-settled at the crease, Australia looked all set for a total close to 300 runs.

The Indian bowlers and fielders didn’t even panic for a moment as Australia had made a comeback into the match after losing three early wickets. Instead, they showed a tough mentality, temperament and attitude as it was evident from the body language of the players.

In a match like the final with the players being so young, big match pressure generally gets the better of the players. And it often affects the bowling side more than the batting side. However, the India juniors showed no such signs sticking to their disciplined approach without trying anything fancy and waited for the Australian batsmen to make mistakes themselves.

The match was there for the taking for both sides at that point in the last 10 overs. With the pitch favouring the batsmen, Australia could have really gone on to put up a big score on the board. Instead, they lost six wickets for just 33 runs in a span of eight overs, finally being bowled out for a paltry 216 runs, a score which was never going to be enough on that kind of pitch considering the run of form the Indian batsmen were in.

And when the Indian innings began, it was once again evident what the result was going to be considering the aggressive approach both the openers, Manjot Kalra and Prithvi Shaw adopted. There was no hint of nervousness or even a bit of tentativeness in the body language of the Indian players. It seemed like they had been in situations like these on numerous occasions as professionalism and maturity was visible in the way they were playing.

In many ways, they appeared to be much more mature and professional than their age group. Even their Australian counterparts seemed no match for them in an occasion like the final. They merely seemed like the usual boys of the U-19 world while the transformation of the Indian players from boys to men seemed to be complete.

Much of that can be attributed to the fact that nine of the players in the Indian playing XI had either first class or List-A experience under their belt. And a coach like Rahul Dravid’s guidance on top of that has definitely worked wonders for the India juniors.

Players are bound to make mistakes at this age level. They are bound to be nervous as well. Apart from one dropped catch which was quite a difficult chance early on in the Australian innings, the Indian players didn’t let any chance go as far as their fielding was concerned. The Australian fielders, on the other hand, missed a couple of easy chances which only allowed the Indian batsmen to make the run chase even more easier. Harvik Desai’s catch to dismiss Jason Sangha off Kamlesh Nagarkoti’s bowling summed up the difference in fielding standards between the two sides as well.

Even the bowlers bowled tight lines and lengths and didn’t let the Australian batsmen to get any momentum in their innings. Yes, there were those occasional loose deliveries but the Indian bowlers corrected their mistakes quickly. The Australian bowlers didn’t find any rhythm going in their bowling whatsoever. Even their best bowler in the side, Lloyd Pope was taken for more than eight runs per over in his five overs.

And talking about the batting, it was thoroughly professional once again with Kalra scoring a century in the run chase with all of Prithvi (29), Shubman Gill(30) and Harvik (47*) making valuable contributions. They kept scoring runs aggressively and totally brushed aside any chances the Australian team had to defend that total. The Australian middle order had fought hard, but they couldn’t get on top of the Indian bowling for long periods and that was exactly where the game broke for them. The Indian players showed nerves of steel and were not intimidated at all by either the occasion or the opponents.

The Indian juniors were the most consistent team throughout the tournament claiming all 60 wickets of their opponents in these six matches. And from the batting point of view also, they never found themselves under pressure. That sums up why the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises showed so much faith in the young players like Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Gill, Shaw and Kalra, not only because they are promising players but since they seem totally ready for the big stage.

With this victory, their fourth World Cup title, the Indian juniors have once again established their domination on the U-19 world. They epitomised professionalism and maturity beyond their years coming out on top of the world with flying colours.