There is no dearth of talent in India. When it comes to cricket, there is a cricketer – bowler or a batsman – in every nook and corner of our country. Cricket fans are deeply impressed by some of the talented Under-19 players such as Deepak Hooda, Sarfaraz Khan, Vijay Zol, Kuldeep Yadav, etc. It is surprising that they already have a fan following, who cant wait to see these players play make it to the senior side.
Kiwi commentator Danny Morrison, impressed with Sarfaraz Khan’s U-19 World Cup 2014 heroics, has rightly referred to the 16-year-old as a ‘Pocket Rocket’. Sarfaraz is a right-handed middle order batsman and a reliable leg spinner. If he keeps up with the promise he has shown so far, he could very well be the batting all-rounder India needs. Coming from his native Uttar Pradesh and coached by his father Naushad Khan, he made a mark with the Mumbai Under-19 team a few years ago. The stocky batsman, who made waves very early in his career, did no harm to his reputation by playing a crucial role in all the 4 matches, with scores of 74, 45*, 34* and 52*, that the Indian U-19 team was a part of before being eliminated in the quarter-finals match against England.
Deepak Hooda, on the other hand, is a right arm off break bowler who got noticed due to his 5 wicket haul in the tournament opener against Pakistan. He later proved he could bat equally well when he rescued his team from a precarious position, coming in when the team was at 24 for the loss of 4 wickets against England in the quarter-finals, with a solid 112-ball 68.
Hooda, who plays for the Baroda Cricket Association, has always been an accurate bowler according to his coach Sanjiv Sawant. Hooda’s main aim is to bowl as many dot balls as possible. He looks up to Irfan Pathan for assistance. Rajasthan Royals raised a few eyebrows while picking him in the 2014 auctions; but looking at his performance now, their decision has been justified.
Kuldeep Yadav, a slow left arm chinaman bowler, has made it to the pages of history by obtaining a hat-trick against Scotland in the Under-19 World Cup match against Scotland. Yadav, who says he joined cricket for fitness reasons alone, comes from a supportive middle class family. He has been chosen by the Kolkata Knight Riders for this season of the IPL. The spinner who grabbed eyeballs when he bowled an outstanding spell against Sri Lanka in July 2013 – in which he grabbed 6 wickets – has also been selected to the Uttar Pradesh squad for upcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy. Yadav explains his game plan, “I judge a batsman by how he plays me in the first few balls and then plan accordingly.”
These boys are making friends, family and fans proud. It will not be wrong to call them our future superstars. Most of the Under-19 players have had to struggle to reach where they have. Players like these only need opportunities and limelight. They have made it till the Indian world cup team, and fans would like to believe that they will only shine brighter in the future with opportunities like the IPL. However, these players need to be consistent and sustain their good form. There are a lot of expectations from these players. We have seen players like Virat Kohli come out of the junior level and earn a respectable position in the Indian team. Let us hope these players can make it, too.