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Meet the U-19 stars

With the under-19 world cup currently underway in New Zealand, let’s take a look at some youngsters that cricket enthusiasts can look forward to

BEFORE MAKING a splash in the international scene, players need to prove their mettle in the junior stages of the game. And there is no bigger proving ground than the under-19 cricket world cup.

This tournament has gifted the cricketing world stars like Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Steve Smith and many more legendary cricketers to the international scene. With the under-19 world cup currently underway in New Zealand here are some youngsters that cricket enthusiasts can look forward to.

VRIITYA ARAVIND (WICKETKEEPER-BATSMAN, UAE)

Born in India but raised in the United Arab Emirates, Aravind is one of the few players in the tournament to have already played senior-level ODI cricket. His 53 against New Zealand in the warm-ups helped UAE upset their more fancied opponents and he followed it up with 98 against Japan to put himself in a good frame of mind going into the tournament proper.

TILAK VARMA (BATSMAN, INDIA)

The left-handed batsman from Hyderabad was the top-scorer at the quadrangular series India played just before the World Cup warm-ups and has scored half-centuries in each of his last four games. He bats at No. 3, is a wristy batsman and is an exceptional player of spin bowling. He first entered the limelight during the domestic U-16 tournament two years ago, where he finished as the highest run-scorer with 960 runs for Hyderabad.

JORDAN COX (WICKETKEEPER-BATSMAN, ENGLAND)

He joined Kent at the age of 10, and at 18 he collected his professional contract at the county. He made his first-class, List A and T20 debut in 2018 and is one of the most experienced members of the England squad. The right-hander carried his bat for 122 in a 50-over match for the side against Bangladesh in the summer of 2019 and went on to be the second-highest run-scorer in the winter tri-series in Antigua, with another classy century against Sri Lanka.

MACKENZIE HARVEY (BATSMAN, AUSTRALIA)

The Australia captain, nephew of former Aussie all-rounder  Ian Harvey, first garnered global attention when he was selected for the Prime Minister’s XI for a one-day against an England XI, where he thumped senior international bowlers like Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes for an unbeaten 48-ball 59 as a 17-year old in 2018. Since then, he has created some buzz in the Big Bash League as part of the Melbourne Renegades squad, when they won the title in 2019. He scored 55, 54* and 83* against New Zealand in his first outing as Australia captain.

TOWHID HRIDOY (BATSMAN, BANGLADESH)

If his average of 55 in the 2018-19 Dhaka Premier Division T20 tournament isn’t impressive enough, Hridoy enters the competition having gained useful experience at the 2018 edition of the World Cup in New Zealand. His last nine scores read: 51*, 73, 8, 82*, 123*, 115, 111, 53 and 36. He’s also a handy off break bowler and is the side’s vice-captain.

JONATHAN BIRD (ALLROUNDER, SOUTH AFRICA)

Bird, a top-order batsman who bowls left-arm spin, has earned praise from Makhaya Ntini, who called him “one of the greatest young players in South Africa.” On his List-A debut for Western Province, he struck a century, showing he has the technique and temperament to play long innings. The left-hander is strong against the short ball and possesses a drool-worthy cover drive.

DANE SCHADENDORF (WICKETKEEPER, ZIMBABWE)

The subject of one of the first viral cricket videos of 2020, Schadendorf follows the footsteps of elder brother Jayden who represented Zimbabwe in the 2018 edition. The younger sibling is acrobatic behind the stumps and has shown his ability to apply himself in the lower middle-order during the qualifiers. Case in point: his 81 against India earlier this week took Zimbabwe close to a win in a warm-up game last week.

KARTIK TYAGI (BOWLER, INDIA)

With 17 wickets in his last 10 youth ODIs – including back-to-back three-wicket hauls in the warm-up games, Tyagi is a fast bowler who is menacing with the swinging ball. He has a front-on action and has a bowling action reminiscent of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He’ll be high on confidence after collecting an IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals, and will lead the attack for the defending champions. A warning for batsmen: protect your toes when this teenager from Uttar Pradesh runs in to bowl.

ADITHYA ASHOK (BOWLER, NEW ZEALAND)

The tall, classical leg spinner has taken eight wickets in his last three matches and gets the ball to turn menacingly with his Ish Sodhi-esque action. He’s not afraid to fight the ball, and his height allows him to generate extra bounce as well. He also possesses the slider and the wrong’un, so batsmen will have to be wary while facing him. He’s most dangerous when batsmen are looking to attack him, and will be used as New Zealand’s primary wicket-taking option in the middle overs.

SHORIFUL ISLAM (BOWLER, BANGLADESH)

The lanky left-arm pacer from Panchagor in Bangladesh will be potent in conditions that offer something for seam bowlers. He set the U-19 stage on fire after taking a five-wicket haul against New Zealand in Lincoln late last year and has followed it up with a four-for against Australia in the warm-ups. He is one of the most experienced players in the World Cup, having played eight first-class games and 26 List-A matches, where he averages 22.50 and 24.93 respectively.

CHARLIE PEET (BOWLER, SCOTLAND)

Against teams that are not familiar with top-quality spin, left-arm orthodox bowler Peet can be a handful. Against Jersey last year, he claimed 7 for 12 in Amsterdam and in the warm-ups finished with ridiculous figures of 6 for 2 against Japan. Not many opponents have seen Peet bowl, so the surprise element may find batsmen wanting. He’s also very accurate, never conceding more than 35 runs in his youth ODI career.

YASHASVI JAISWAL (BATSMAN, INDIA)

If a double century in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Mumbai wasn’t proof enough of Yashasvi Jaiswal’s unmistakable talent, the youngster has been racking up the runs in youth ODIs. Since the end of the last Under-19 World Cup in 2018, Jaiswal is the third highest run-scorer with 986 runs in 21 matches at an average of 58 with two hundreds and eight half-centuries.

In the warm-up game against Afghanistan, ahead of the 2020 event, Jaiswal scored a half-century before retiring out. Having made a mark for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Jaiswal will be expected to lead India’s title defence in the World Cup in South Africa this year

GERALD COETZEE (BOWLER, SOUTH AFRICA)

The only player in South Africa’s squad for the 2020 event to have played in the last Under-19 World Cup, Gerald Coetzee is an out and out pacer with a promising future. The right-arm fast bowler has played four first-class games already and has 17 wickets in the format. In List A matches, he averages less than 20 and in T20s, he has already made a mark in the Mzansi Super League with Jozi Stars. An all-format player already, the Under-19 pacer is a superstar in the making, much like Kagiso Rabada was in 2014. Injury concerns are a hindrance, though, with his 2019 MSL shortened due to a hamstring injury.

In the finals of the recently concluded Quadrangular series in South Africa (involving India, New Zealand and Zimbabwe), he picked up three for 19 against the India youth side at Durban. He is one player who could make an impression in this tournament

NIPUN DANANJAYA PERERA (BATSMAN, SRI LANKA)

Nipun Dananjaya Perera will lead the Lankan lions youth side to the World Cup this year and is on the cusp of making history as a youth player. Dananjaya has skippered the side in 32 matches since the last Under-19 World Cup in 2018 and is a veteran at the youth level. He might well go on to become Sri Lanka’s most capped youth player, going past Kamindu Mendis, Sachith Pathirana and Avishka Fernando, all of whom are already Sri Lankan national players.

Perera is the fourth highest run-scorer in the format since the 2018 tournament, with 915 runs, although he is yet to get a century. This event could be a big one for him if he can showcase his potential as a leader

NOOR AHMAD (BOWLER, AFGHANISTAN)

Noor Ahmad recently made heads turn when he was shortlisted as the youngest player in the IPL auction at 14 years of age. While he did not end up with a franchise, the youngster, who turned 15 this month, is more experienced than most at this level. A chinaman spinner, Ahmad was first spotted by current youth coach Raees Ahmadzai.

In a series against the India Under-19 side in Lucknow last year, Ahmad picked up three wickets twice in two matches and was a threat to some of India’s better players of spin. In 2019, the left-arm wrist spinner picked up eight wickets at 21.87 for Mis Ainak Knights in the Shpageeza T20 League in Afghanistan. While the Afghanistan side has flown under the radar in youth ODIs of late, Noor Ahmad remains one exciting player to watch out for in this Under-19 World Cup.

MOHAMMAD SHAHZAD (ALL-ROUNDER, PAKISTAN)

In the past, Pakistan have a tendency of playing very young players and hence, the inclusion of Mohammad Shehzad isn’t a big surprise. The 14-year-old is a batting all-rounder. He bats at the top of the order and can bowl medium pace as well. Shehzad caught the selector’s attention in the Under-16 tournament in Pakistan where he amassed 175 runs and picked up six wickets in two games. Saleem Jaffar, Pakistan Under-19 team’s head coach linked Shehzad to Abdul Razzaq and thought the 14-year-old can play a similar role