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7 exciting talents from the 2018 Under-19 World Cup

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Under 19_U19_Final_Stars_CricketThe recently concluded Under-19 World Cup saw the ball squared off against the bat in a riveting contest. Even as India lifted the trophy on the back of a colossal effort of youthful force and energy, cricket was the winner, as it witnessed some lesser known faces and future forces of world cricket.

The 2018 ICC Under-19 World Cup will be remembered for India’s resounding success, a memorable fourth triumph, amidst an energetic contest where Australia and Afghanistan dominated and spoils & spills were enjoyed by Pakistan, England and New Zealand.

So here’s a quick look at some of the finest players who shone at a platform where greatness starts to show:

1. Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan)

From a country that has traditionally produced a battery of great fast bowlers, it was a joy to witness 17-year-old Shaheen Afridi bowling his heart out in the Under-19 World Cup.

Tall, lanky and adept at extracting extra bounce off the surface, Pakistan have finally produced a Boom-Boom equivalent of Shahid Afridi – one who can tear apart batting orders with his explosive left arm fast bowling.

Shaheen Afridi’s highlight was his sterling performance against Ireland, where he struck a vital, personal best: 6/15. His in-swinging yorkers kept commentators busy and batsmen bamboozled as the Khyber-born pacer finished with 12 wickets from the tournament.

2. Finn Allen (New Zealand)

If you examine New Zealand’s recent cricketing past, you’d discover several proven, match-winning batsmen who double up as agile wicketkeepers. Right now, Tom Latham is a one of a kind talent who is following closely in the footsteps of one of his cricketing heroes, Brendon McCullum, an all-time legend.

In Finn Allen, Kiwi hopes are revived to find another ‘would-be’ Brendon McCullum batsman who plays unabashedly without a worry or care for the kind of surface or the scorecard. The highest run-scorer for the Black Caps, attacking right-handed Allen spurred his side to great heights following his dashing stroke-play versus England, Kenya and the West Indies, against whom he made scores of 87, 90 and an unbeaten 115, respectively.

3. Hasitha Boyagoda (Sri Lanka)

On January 23, the Kenya Under-19 side learnt a vital lesson, one that all international sides should (hopefully) keep in mind for some time to come: do not take Sri Lanka lightly.

Hasitha Boyagoda struck the highest score in an Under-19 ODI – 191 from 152 balls, a stunning innings featuring 28 fours and 2 sixes.

An able destroyer of the cricket ball who collects runs freely on either side of the wicket, boyish, right-handed Boyagoda is a wonderful throwback to the destructive days of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana.

When one considers the challenges currently gripping the Sri Lankan side, still in a state of transition, talents like Boyagoda give the island nation hope that better times are around the corner. Boyagoda would go on to strike another hundred, a quick-fire 116 against the West Indies at Lincoln.

4. Lloyd Pope (Australia)

It has been nearly 25 years since Shane Warne tormented Englishmen with his ball of the century. Now, a new leg-break sensation has emerged on the horizon, one who has already scuttled Australia’s traditional rivals and is likely giving them nightmares.

With his breathtaking 8/35 against England, Lloyd Pope ensured he immediately became headline material in a tournament that had hitherto been labeled a batsman’s paradise.

Pope’s beautiful high-arm action, preceded by a languid approach to the crease, left many batsmen wondering what was coming their way. He was unafraid to toss the ball up and was adept at the googly, a key strength in any leggie’s armoury.

It will be exciting to see what becomes of this talented South Australian in the years to come. Will he soon be seen donning the bright yellows, playing under Steve Smith?

5. Kamlesh Nagarkoti (India)

India have traditionally lacked fearsome pace bowlers, while sides like New Zealand, West Indies and Australia have enjoyed no shortage of fast bowling artillery. But in Kamlesh Nagarkoti, a slender, lithe, pace-bowling force, India has finally found a new weapon of choice, someone who can go an extra yard quicker than many current Indian speedsters.

The young Rajasthan quick can generate extra bounce and seems to relish the contest that comes with bowling in conditions that favour batsmen. This was evident in his memorable spells against Australia and Bangladesh, where his three-for’s helped India shut down their opponents’ free scoring ways.

Emerging from the tournament with 9 wickets and going as fast as 145, almost touching the 150 k/hr mark, Kamlesh Nagarkoti has blasted his way to the world’s attention. Hopefully, he will receive the right guidance required to make his way into the national side.

6. Shubman Gill (India)

You know you are special when, at the age of just 18, you’re drawing comparisons with the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. This fiery right hander who made heaps of runs against almost every side – notching up valuable scores of 102* against Pakistan, 86 against Bangladesh and, 90* against Zimbabwe – lent a truly invaluable contribution to India’s triumph in the Under-19 World Cup.

A batsman with a huge appetite for runs, Shubman Gill’s strong front foot defence and beautiful flowing cover and square drives enabled India to frustrate bowling-strong opponents such as Australia and Pakistan. But the one stroke that catapulted the Punjab-born youngster to the world’s attention was his elegant front foot pull toward deep midwicket, something the world has seen from Ricky Ponting and the aforementioned Rohit Sharma.

7. Alick Athanaze (West Indies)

The West Indies are in desperate need of injecting young, capable talent into their ranks. Theirs has been a painful rebuilding stage that seems to be endless, ever since the departure of Chanderpaul and the exit of the old guard (like Bravo and Sammy) for freelancing T20 duties.

Amidst these harrowing times, hopes run high when one lays an eye on someone as breathtaking as Alick Athanaze – a seemingly dependable mid-order batsman who top-scored in the tournament with 428 runs.

With his carefree batting made secure by glorious timing and the ability to maneuver the ball on either side of the wicket, Athanaze seems a sure star in the future. While it remains to be seen how well the West Indian Cricket Board utilize this young Dominican for national duties, what’s certain is that Athanaze’s strong front foot stroke-play and intent on playing along the ground (as against the dangers of hitting through the air) makes him one to watch, quite like Shimron Hetmyer, an Under-19 World Cup winner who is searching for form.

 

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