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Six Under-19 stars to look out for

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Under 19_U19_Future_Stars_Cricket_ODI_World_CupThe ICC Under-19 World Cup is always an exciting tournament to watch. It has given us the first glimpse of countless superstars of today. The perfect stepping stone for youngsters into the big league, it is a platform to display their mettle to the world. The latest edition of the U-19 World Cup has begun in New Zealand, and there is palpable excitement in the air again. The tournament has now become much bigger and more visible to the general public than it used to be and it will be fascinating to note which fresh heroes emerge this time.

Here is a look at six young and exciting stars from the world over on whom we should keep an eye in the tournament.

Kamindu Mendis (Sri Lanka):

Although he made his first appearance, amid a lot of focus, in the 2016 ICC under-19 World Cup, Sri Lanka’s Kamindu Mendis will attract attention in the upcoming event as well. He is a rare bowler, after all. Very rare. Mendis is an ambidextrous spin bowler; he can bowl equally well both with left and the right arm. It is his standout feature and has made him an exciting future proposition for Sri Lankan cricket.

It is clear that the Lankan selectors see a role for Mendis in the national team, as he has been given the responsibility to lead the side in the current U-19 World Cup. Mendis is also a decent middle-order batsman and has four half-centuries in Under-19 ODIs, which makes him an invaluable member of the team.

It is his ambidextrous spinning, however, that will be keenly anticipated. Mendis is a smart bowler and though he doesn’t get much turn, he bowls tight channels. It will be interesting to observe what new variations this unique bowler has added to his armory.  

Jason Sangha (Australia):

The captain of the Australian team in the tournament, Jason Sangha recently became the youngest first-class centurion in Australia since Ricky Ponting. At 18 years and 71 days, Jason smashed a brilliant hundred against England in a pre-Ashes tour game in 2016. Regular impressive performances in the domestic arena got him a contract with New South Wales in 2016-17 – the youngest cricketer in Australian cricket history to have achieved the feat.

Since then he has been piling on the runs. Sangha’s performances in the 2015 season -  where he delivered some quality knocks for the New South Wales Under-15 Schoolboys team, the Under-19 National Championships and for the Cricket Australia Under-17s Invitation sides (four fifties in five matches) - were exemplary. His attractive strokeplay also earned him a BBL contract for Sydney Thunder.

Sangha is a confident and fearless cricketer and will be one of the prominent faces in the World Cup.

Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan):

Trust Pakistan to keep churning out raw pace sensations out of the blue. At just 17 years of age, Shaheen Afridi is already making news in his country with his fast bowling talent. The youngster got a contract from the Bangladesh Premier League but turned it down as he wanted to concentrate on his U-19 World Cup preparation.

The left-arm pacer was first noticed when he grabbed a sensational 8-39 in his maiden appearance in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy (Pakistan’s domestic tournament). It was the best figures by a Pakistani bowler on first-class debut and the video of his performance was widely watched in the country. A fan of Pakistani legend Wasim Akram, Shaheen seems to have modeled his action on his idol and Australia’s Mitchell Starc. He thrives on in-swingers to get the batsman. He has good pace along with an ability to extract bounce and movement; the pitches in New Zealand should suit him perfectly.

Baheer Shah (Afghanistan):

Afghanistan is on a roll at the moment, producing some breathtaking young talent from their ranks. Last year it was Rashid Khan who burst through in international cricket. This year it is 18-year-old wunderkind Baheer Shah who is dominating headlines. The young Afghani batsman’s first-class average currently stands at 121.77 after 7 matches.

For a player with more than 1000 first-class runs, this is the highest-ever average in cricket history, superior to even the great Don Bradman. Baheer began his career in spectacular fashion by smashing a remarkable unbeaten 256 – the second highest debut score of all time in a professional innings. Five innings, later, he struck a sublime triple hundred and with it, became the second youngest first-class triple centurion, behind Pakistan’s Javed Miandad.

He would have gone on to become the quickest to 1,000 first-class runs but was stranded on 9 not out as the game was washed out. With the phenomenal feats he has already achieved in such a short time, this stylish young batting sensation from Afghanistan will be keenly observed in the World Cup.

Fin Trenouth (England):

A hard and clean striker of the ball, Fin Trenouth does not look like a 19-year-old kid. Tall and burly, he towers over his English teammates in the U-19 squad. The youngster is a mature cricketer who aspires to make his name in the national team soon.

Trenouth first came into news when he struck a dazzling unbeaten 330 off 307 balls for Somerset during the 2016 ECB U17 County Championship against Hampshire. It was a whirlwind effort on a tough pitch where he smashed 33 fours and 13 sixes.

Trenouth also has wicket-keeping skills in his CV and would be England’s reserve keeper in the World Cup.

Shubman Gill (India):

While all eyes will be on Indian captain Prithvi Shaw, another exciting prospect from the country, Shubman Gill, may well leave his imprint in this World Cup. Shubman first made news when, at the age of 14, he smashed an outstanding 351 off 271 balls in the Punjab Inter-District Under-16 tournament.

In his Under-16 state debut for Punjab, he cracked a masterly double hundred in the Vijay Merchant Trophy. The young batsman has been steadily making rapid progress. Currently, his Under-19 ODI average stands at a 97.76 – the highest for any U-19 cricketer with more than 250 runs.

Shubman has also showed that he is a complete batsman and did well for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. In fact, in only his third first-class innings, he bought up his maiden hundred. Shubman usually bats at No.3 and has a lot of style and class about him. He has been in red hot form this year and, with 351 runs in 4 matches, was the Man of the Series during the Youth ODI series at home against England. Coach Rahul Dravid has been mightily impressed with this youngster’s composure and has been banking heavily on him to hold the Indian batting line up together in the big tournament. 

 

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