The dominance of India on and off the field in international cricket arena has been once again proven when the Indian Under-19 cricket team created history by clinching the World Cup 2018 for a record fourth time. The young Indians have literally outclassed the mighty Australians to register an eight-wicket win in the final against Australia. The victory at Bay Oval, New Zealand, in front of a partisan crowd of over 4000 marked the climax of India’s unbeaten campaign in the series. In the final, India have pulled off their second highest successful chase in U-19 World Cups, after the 2012’s 226 to beat Australia in Townsville. Moreover, Manoj Kalra, star of the match with an unbeaten 101, has become the second Indian player in ICC U-19 history to score a century in the final after Unmukt Chand.
Even from the commencement of the tournament itself, the Prithvi Shaw-led Indians seemed to be determined to take home the title. The title-clinch was inevitable, because the team, astutely coached by the legendary Rahul Dravid, has consistently showcased quality cricket throughout the three-week sojourn. India have started their victory campaign at the Bay Oval by defeating the Australians at a margin of massive 100 runs in their first match. India have emphatically defeated all its rivals like Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh etc. in the subsequent matches. Even in the much-hyped semi-final against India’s all-time rival Pakistan, the Indians have earned an easy victory at a margin of 203 runs. And finally, in the summit clash, Dravid’s boys have repeated their display of dominance by bowling out the Aussies for 216 and later achieved the target in 38.5 overs, losing only two wickets.
Even though it is the players who won the cup, the role of their coach Rahul Dravid deserves much credit. For the past 14 months, this experienced cricketer has been with the team to make them ready for the big game. The victory has been a winning moment for Dravid too because he finally got his hands on a World Cup trophy after missing out on World Cup title two times previously - first as a player in 2003 and later as coach of the U-19 team in 2016. Under his regime, the BCCI has focused on generating a pool of 35 players over the last two years. The team has played four bilateral series last year to ensure practice before the world cup tournament. Dravid’s satisfaction has been clear in his words when he said post-match " I think the effort we have put in over the last 14 months have been sensational. They really deserved this, couldn't be really happier and proud for this bunch of boys,”
The Under 19 World Cup is meant to be the platform to identify emerging stars of the game and the latest edition too has found some promising heroes for India’s cricket future, including the batting triumvirate Prithvi Shaw, Manoj Kalra and Shubman Gill, and seamer Kamlesh Nagarkoti and spinner Anukul Roy. But, it is too early to predict who all are about to secure a berth in the Indian senior team. Because, though India have won the U-19 World Cup three times earlier (2000, 2008, 2012) we know only Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli, who managed to find an identity for themselves in the big arena backed by their U-19 ranks. Even Unmukt Chand, who led the team to the Cup in 2012, has not been able to graduate to the main team.
Rahul Dravid has known this and maybe it because of that only, he cut through the post-victory hype and said that the victory should not be the team’s defining memory as each individual cricketer has to make their own individual memory in his career. For Shaw and his boys, the journey has only begun, and they still have to prove a lot for showing that they are ready to rub shoulders with Kohli and his men.