Mohammad Kaif did it in 2000, Virat Kohli repeated the same in 2008, now it\'s a chance for Unmukt Chand to replicate the feat.
Mohammad Kaif did it in 2000, Virat Kohli repeated the same in 2008, so now it's a chance for Unmukt Chand to replicate the feat of his predecessors and become only the third Indian captain to put his hands around the glittering ICC Under-19 World Cup Trophy when they meet Australia in the final on Sunday.
India's nerve-wrangling victories in the quarter-final against Pakistan and in the semi-final against New Zealand could have served only as an appetizer for the gala dinner they may possibly have after the final at Townsville tomorrow.
And although reaching the final is a "dream-come-true" for Unmukt and other members of the Indian squad, they are aware of the combative nature of the Australians and are not ready to take their foot off the pedal just yet. "Australia would be tough. Playing Australia in Australia is always difficult," Unmukt, the 19-year-old swashbuckling batsman, said before the final.
His team-mate and one of his “most-important” players of the eleven, Baba Aparajith, seconded his skipper's view and hoped to continue his performance that won him back-to-back Man-of-the-Match awards. "I am just trying to keep my momentum going. I am trying to get my basics right. But Australia is a very competitive side," he said.
But reaching the final hasn't been smooth sailing for India. Their campaign started with a crushing defeat against West Indies but the victories against Zimbabwe and New Papua Guinea only boosted their morale and prepared them for the knockout matches. Although they managed to win the quarter-final and semi-final by the skin of their teeth, their batting did look worrisome. With Unmukt, the leading run-scorer for India in the previous two tournaments, not firing at the top, the middle order crumbled on both occasions.
So if they are asked to bat first, which most sides have done so far in the event, on a seam-friendly wicket here on Sunday, then it will be the responsibility of the top order to lay a platform.
With opening stands of 4, 139, 5, 7 and 51 Prashant Chopra and Unmukt Chand have been erratic and in the biggest match of their lives, Chopra, the highest run-getter for India here with 172, and Unmukt will have to give India a solid platform. Aparajith, who is the find of the tournament for India with his all-round display, and Vijay Zol, second to Chopra in the batters list with 150, will then have to build on the launch pad set by the openers. The role of other players will be to contribute and take the side to a challenging total.
The bowling has turned out to be the saving grace for India, with the pace trio of Sandeep Sharma, Ravikant Singh and Kamal Passi making full use of the conditions and the spin duo of Harmeet Singh and Aparajith building pressures and grabbing wickets in the middle.
Sandeep, with eight wickets so far, has made the new ball talk by moving it in both directions and providing early breakthroughs. He, along with Ravikant, the most successful bowler for India with 11 wickets, and Kamal Passi (10 wickets, including 6 for 23 in the league match against Zimbabwe), have managed to stifle the opposition batsmen with their disciplined line and length.
But riding on the home advantage, Australia - the only team to have won the tournament thrice (1988, 2002, 2010) since its inception in 1988, will fight tooth and nail to defend their title. And the presence of former greats – Greg Chappell, Craig McDermott and Stuart Law – in the coaching staff has only enhanced the faith of a bunch of youngsters who are out to rewritten history.
They are led by William Bosisto, who’s four unbeaten innings out of five have fetched him runs at a staggering average of 189. Cameron Bancroft has also been amongst runs, scoring 194 with an average just under 50. Their bowling is spearheaded by Indian-origin Gurinder Sandhu, whose nine wickets upfront have proved crucial in Australia’s road to the final. Ashton Turner has also been quite effective with his offspin which got him ten wickets – the highest for Australia here so far.
But despite all the advantages that Australia carrying, India can still trump them if they play with the zeal they have shown throughout the tournament. And remembering their victory over the same opponents in the final of the quadrangular tournament in April this year, also involving England and New Zealand, can only serve as a morale booster ahead of the clash. Unmukt, who then scored an unbeaten 112 to take India over the finish line, will hope for an encore, this time with a bigger trophy and better rewards.
Australia: 1 Cameron Bancroft, 2 Jimmy Peirson (wk), 3 Meyrick Buchanan, 4 Kurtis Patterson, 5 William Bosisto (capt), 6 Travis Head, 7 Ashton Turner, 8 Alex Gregory, 9 Mark Steketee, 10 Joel Paris, 11 Gurinder Sandhu
India: 1 Prashant Chopra, 2 Unmukt Chand (capt), 3 Baba Aparajith, 4 Hanuma Vihari, 5 Vijay Zol, 6 Akshdeep Nath, 7 Smit Patel (wk), 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Kamal Passi, 10 Ravikant Singh, 11 Sandeep Sharma