India's new Fab 4 have to get in fast

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 29, 2012 06:14 hrs

In what is now part of folklore, two school students put up a world record partnership of 664 runs in 1988, both scoring triple centuries in the process. The younger of the two, Sachin Tendulkar, made his Test debut at the age of 16 and is still playing.

Vinod Kambli on the other hand had to wait for his 21st birthday before he could break into the team and couldn't last that long. There is certainly a case for getting in players young. Sir Garry Sobers, Harbhajan Singh and Waqar Younis are some of the other cricketers who made their debut before they became adults.

That way, the ICC Under-19 World Cup has been a breeding ground for talent. We first won this tournament in 2000 in which Yuvraj Singh was declared Player of the Series. He scored more than 200 runs and took 12 wickets. It came full circle when he picked up the same award in the 2011 WC thanks to a similar all-round performance.

Yuvi's captain in 2000 was Mohammed Kaif and we still remember them for their century partnership in the NatWest Series final versus England where we chased down a (then) record 326 runs. (The leading scorer of the 2000 tournament was South African Graeme Smith and he has recently become the most veteran Test captain in history.)

We next won the tournament in 2008. That was largely due to the leadership of Virat Kohli. Kohli was a revelation and he continued his good form into the national team and is out star ODI player and was the top scorer in the Test series down under, making more runs than the other Indian greats.

His team-mates Ravindra Jadeja, Saurabh Tiwary and Abhinav Mukund also have played for India.

Now two things have happened in 2012. For one, our seniors like VVS Laxman are retiring one by one. At the same time we have won the 2012 Under-19 WC once again and that’s a perfect fit. This is the right time to get the stars of this victory into the senior team as fast as possible.

Among the other rising stars, Rohit Sharma has been given a whopping 85 ODIs while someone like Suresh Raina has been given 16 Tests. Maybe the time is now right to try the next round of talent.

Interestingly if one looks at the top four of the Under-19 WC victory, then it is a very happy mix. We have a star batsman captain (Unmukt Chand), all-rounder (Baba Aparajith), medium pacer (Sandeep Sharma) and spinner (Harmeet Singh).

Sandeep took 12 wickets in the tournament, but most importantly picked up 4 wickets in the all-crucial final. He removed both openers cheaply when Australia had just made just two runs on the board and later broke a stubborn sixth wicket stand of 93 runs. India has a large pool of fast medium pacers and he should join it fast. More so because our injury rate is so high and replacements are always required.

Another big match player proved to be Baba Aparajith. In the quarter finals, we had an absolutely nerve-wracking 1-wicket victory over our old foe Pakistan. His 51 was the top score on both sides. He also took a crucial wicket.

Aparajith repeated his all-round performance in the semis. His sole wicket and 44 runs helped India beat the Kiwis by 9 runs. He was declared Player of the Match in both these ties.

The revelation of the tournament was Unmukt Chand. His captaincy and batting clearly show that he is ready for the big stage. He had already scored centuries in his previous two tournament finals and he came into this final too with a lot of pressure.

Australia set a competitive target of 226 and India lost his first wicket in the very second over. India were in real trouble at 97-4, but Chand steadied the ship. He knew when to go slow, when to rotate the strike and when to go after the big shots. That’s a sign of great maturity.

The captain led from the front and carried his bat till the end scoring a brilliant century with six glorious sixes.

Here's hoping that India's new Fab 4 make their debut for the senior team as soon as possible!

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/