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Remembering the 2008 Under 19 World Cup

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Under_19_2008_World_Cup_CricketIn 1988, as a part of the celebrations for the Australian Bicentenary, a tournament was organized in which young cricketers participated. The hosts, Australia, defeated Pakistan by five wickets at the Adelaide Oval and from there on, the event became a regular feature. Before that, never had so many young cricketers come together for such a huge event and get a feel of what international cricket.

This was the inception of the unique event which was named the Youth Cricket World Cup in its maiden edition in 1988. The next edition was not played until 1998, where ICC took over and since then it has been called the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.

So far, Australia and India have triumphed three times; Pakistan is the only side to have won consecutive titles in 2004 and 2006; and South Africa, England and defending champions West Indies have each lifted the trophy once. With 11 editions so far played, the tournament is an important stepping stone for the young blood in the sport to have their shot at the higher level. The ones who manage to have an impressive Under-19 World Cup are most likely to get noticed for a place in the national team.

 

The past events have witnessed the likes of Brian Lara, Steven Smith, Joe Root, Virat Kohli, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult among several others. All are the products of the Under-19 World Cup, and a majority of them have either shone or are still shining for their respective countries.

 

The 12th edition of the U-19 World Cup commenced on Saturday, and brought back a rush of nostalgia, especially with the current scenario of international cricket. A significant number of the top cricketers of this generation were a part of the 2008 U-19 World Cup. From the batting department, bowling attack or even the top captains, all had previously gone face to face in the highest level of U-19 cricket.

Steven Smith, Australia's captain and the best Test batsman right now, pacer Josh Hazlewood, Indian Captain and the current best limited-overs batsman Virat Kohli, and New Zealand's Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Corey Anderson were all featured in the 2008 U-19 World Cup.

While Boult and Southee are among the top bowlers at present, cricket will always be grateful to the 2008 U-19 World Cup for giving us a first glimpse of the likes of Smith, Kohli and Williamson, who make up the new fab four along with England skipper Joe Root. Meanwhile, Root was a year behind, and featured in the next season of the U-19 World Cup in 2010.

All four have made their marks as the best batsmen of their respective countries and Smith and Kohli have gone a step further. Kohli is the only batsman to average 50-plus across formats, while Smith has taken Test cricket to a whole other level; so much so that during the current Ashes series, comparisons to Sir Don Bradman did not seem completely farfetched. According to the latest ICC Test rankings, Smith has reached 945 career points and now only Bradman is ahead of Smith, with 961 career rating points in all-time Test rankings for batsmen.

 

In the 2008 U-19 World Cup, current Indian and New Zealand captains Kohli and Williamson led their respective teams in the tournament, while Smith (at the time he was primarily a leg spinner who could bat a bit) played under Michael Hill and vice-captain Phil Hughes, who managed to play only six more years before he passed away in 2014.

 

Australian U-19 side, which included Smith, Hazlewood, James Faulkner, James Pattinson, Marcus Stoinis, Joe Burns and Hughes, reached the quarter-final of the tournament. Although they lost to Pakistan, the side certainly had a great future in store for their senior team. The majority of the team went on to represent their country on the senior level.

The fastest and most meteoric rise was Smith, who had earned his international maiden call in less than two years. As he was Australia U-19's second highest wicket-taker with seven wickets despite playing only four matches out of six, and their second highest run-scorer with 114 runs, Smith was picked in the senior team as a leg spinning all-rounder.

While he was being mentored by spin legend Shane Warne, in time Smith began to show glimpses of being a top-order batsman. Seven years have passed since his international debut; he is the Australian captain and the No. 1 Test batsman. Of his 2008 teammates, Hazlewood is the No. 5 bowler in both Tests and ODIs, the likes of Faulkner, Burns and Pattinson are trying to carve their way back into the team, and Stoinis has shown potential of being a key player of the Australian Test and ODI side, as an all-rounder.

 

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Corey Anderson sat on the top of the 2008 runs charts with recorded 162 runs in four matches. The skipper, Williamson, was next with 124 runs in five games. Ten years later, the pace spearheads of today’s New Zealand team are still largely the same: Boult and Southee. Even in the U-19 World Cup, Boult and Southee were the pillars of their bowling attack with 11 and 17 wickets to their names.

 

Kohli, who is among the top three batsmen in the ICC rankings across formats, was the winning captain of the 2008 U-19 World Cup. He was one of few batsmen who averaged 45-plus from his 235 runs in six matches and he was the only Indian player to score a century. His team included Ravindra Jadeja, who was vice captain, Iqbal Abdulla, Siddharth Kaul and Saurabh Tiwary.

While Kohli and Jadeja have raced ahead in their international careers, the others are known only because of the Indian Premier League (IPL). After the Under-19 World Cup, the IPL has been another platform for the youngsters to showcase their talent and get the chance to play against some of the biggest players in the game.

Regardless of who the best among Smith, Kohli or Williamson or Southee, Boult or Hazlewood, all of them will continue to keep cricket enthusiasts in love with the game. While every single U-19 World Cup has unearthed talent and hidden gems, the 2008 edition was a tad more special for giving us the players who we have witnessed turn their games into something special.

 

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