Under-19 World Cup 2016 February 14, 2016

One top-order collapse too many costs India

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India Under-19s' top-order struggles against West Indies Under-19s was not a new occurrence in the tournament that unveiled itself only in the World Cup final. An unbeaten Indian side that had nearly all its parts fall into place until now, was reduced to 50 for 5 within 18 overs.

Against Ireland in the first match, India were 48 for 3 before Sarfaraz Khan rescued them with a knock of 74. Against New Zealand, India were 19 for 2 and Sarfaraz scored 74 again. India were chasing only 170 against Nepal and the top order showed signs of getting into form with their biggest opening stand of the tournament - 124. But the top-order troubles came back in the knockouts - 27 for 2 in the semi-final against Sri Lanka, when Sarfaraz rescued them with another fifty. In the final, Sarfaraz was again India's sole source of resistance with a patient 51 when the batsmen before him fell for 1, 4, 3 and 7.

While India's initial matches in Mirpur had more seamer-friendly tracks compared to today, their position in the final was the worst of the lot in terms of wickets lost and the run-rate. If the West Indies pace attack had a reputation of carving through the opposition's batsmen, the Indian line-up had also been resuscitating itself with major contributions coming from the middle order.

But much was being put on Sarfaraz's shoulders. He was India's leading run-scorer by a distance, and the second-highest overall, with a tally of 355 runs; Rishabh Pant was next with 267. Pant's form was on the rise with consecutive fifties and then a destructive hundred against Namibia. But if he was not performing, all the burden was falling on Sarfaraz. India's third-highest run-scorer was Armaan Jaffer with 160 runs. While coach Rahul Dravid accepted there was some "carelessness" in the first few dismissals, captain Ishan Kishan believed some batsmen have had to make up for the others not scoring on particular days.

"It wasn't that we were relying only on him (Sarfaraz)," Kishan said after the final. "He's a good batsman and in very good form. It's not everyone's day and whoever is in form takes more responsibility. Sometimes it happens that some players are not in form or wickets are falling early so the one who sticks around scores more, that's the plan usually.

"They bowled well in the right areas and got good help from the pitch, there was very good bounce. Pant's wicket was not good for us and later I got a wrong decision from the umpire. These things are very crucial and we needed a partnership but didn't get that otherwise the result would have been different."

Apart from a solid top-three combination, the Indian line-up needed a support system in the middle order they could fall back on, whether Sarfaraz was among the runs or not. The only thing he would rue would be that he scored five fifties in six innings but gave his wicket away instead of putting a price on it for the bowlers.

"I think he's had a very good tournament in terms of numbers and stats but I think if he's honest with himself, he'll know that he should have converted some of those into one or two hundreds," Dravid said. "Today was a really good opportunity, he was batting really really well. Just an opportunity to bat right till the end and get us to a fighting total. He has got a lot of talent and he's shown that in the tournament. And he's not the only one. Some of them have been able to show it, some not so much. But it's the starting of a journey for some. Experiences like these, tournaments like these will really help them."

Coach Rahul Dravid on Sarfaraz Khan - "I think he's had a very good tournament in terms of numbers and stats but I think if he's honest with himself, he'll know that he should have converted some of those into one or two hundreds" © Getty Images

A weak link that did not hurt India till the final was the No. 3 spot. India had Ricky Bhui at that spot for their first three games. He started off with a steady 39 against Ireland but produced subdued performances against New Zealand and Nepal with scores of 1 and 7 respectively. The result was Bhui, one of the three Indian players to play the last World Cup, was dropped for a batting allrounder who had not even batted in the warm-ups - Anmolpreet Singh.

Anmolpreet showed his mettle straightaway - 41 in the quarter-final and a pressure-soaking 72 against Sri Lanka when India lost the openers within 10 overs. But can you blame a new player for not scoring in the final when he had already scored in the previous two? To add to that, he faced the most unplayable delivery among the Indian batsmen in the final - an uncomfortable short ball that drew an edge for the wicketkeeper.

"Earlier we always found a way to pull ourselves back," Dravid said. "Maybe it was one match too many. See, the guys tried their best. I will not blame anyone. The effort that I saw in training, practice was top class. We batted first in every single game except against Nepal and they were pretty challenging conditions. Considering we were playing in the sub-continent, these were pretty challenging conditions especially with 9 o'clock starts here.

"It wasn't easy to bat but it was a great lesson for us going ahead that sometimes you have to bat in these conditions, sometimes you have to find a way to get through that. Really good lesson for the top three that conditions aren't always going to be as flat as you experience in India and you have to fight your way through it, you have to have the technique and ability to get through to 20 overs and then cash in. Lessons and learning but can't fault the effort."

India were also caught unaware by the alertness of West Indies wicketkeeper Tevin Imlach who stumped Pant off a fast bowler on the fourth ball of the match. It can be said that that moment started India's downfall and spoiled their plans of seeing through the first few overs of the opening bowlers. Pant did not have his best day while wicketkeeping either. In a challenging defence of 145, he dropped Kacy Carty in the 41st over on 35 and West Indies were still 37 runs adrift from the target. Carty went on to score an unbeaten 51 and steered his team through several nervous moments.

"It happens, catches get dropped," Kishan said. "It's not necessary that things will go your way every day. He (Pant) has given very good performances so far so it's not that he had a bad day. We bowled well, if we had fielded well and taken our catches, the result would have been in our favour."

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Laslojams on February 16, 2016, 22:52 GMT

    India's batting collapse was unexpected, and it cost them the title. Cricket is an one mistake game, and a good batsman can make an early mistake, and will be back in the pavilion, but a team has at least seven good batsmen, and the team can do well if four of the top seven produce some runs, which did not happen. These talented youngsters have a lot of work to do. Problems have to be analyzed and corrected, without interfering with their basic mechanics.

  • paramnp9 on February 16, 2016, 4:11 GMT

    @NAMPALLY: Sarfaraaz is from Mumbai, but has moved over to UP now. Hope he does well for A teams and progress further. Pant, Ishan, Lamror, Avesh, Dagar, Sundar and Jaffer also look promising.

  • Nampally on February 15, 2016, 16:46 GMT

    Sarfaraz did his best to rescue the Indian batting once more but did not get any support from other batsmen. Nevertheless one more half century from the most consistent Indian bat. Even so if Indian fielding was good, India still had a chance to win. But dropped catches did not help their cause. But it was a magnificent run for the title by India ruined by more determined WI team. Sarfaraz stood out as the highest run scorer for India i9n the tournament & finished second overall. As always happens these promising youngsters do not get a chance to move up to the national team as happened in case of many U-19 top performers. One such example is Unmukt Chand. Hopefully Sarfaraz will get a better chance at advancing because he is also a member of the Mumbai team in the Domestic Cricket. Mumbai is still in the final of the long domestic tourney. Sarfaraz should continue his form in the Finals for Mumbai!

  • kargilboy on February 15, 2016, 12:53 GMT

    @binoy_desilva but they handled pace way better than SL and other sc teams.favorite due to their unbeaten record bro 22 match is some streak and they won u19 in aus vs aus 2012 in quite pacy conditions.

  • IndianBarcafan on February 15, 2016, 11:11 GMT

    @REECE_HILL : Despite the fact that you are a known India baiter and plus the fact that you have nothing to do with the two teams in question , neither i have seen your comments in this U19 WC till now but i am still going to reply to you, let me inform you that India were put to bat first in nearly every match and they were decent fast bowlers in all those teams, even in Semi finals against SL there were two SL seamers A.Fernando and Lahiru Kumara who were as quick as the two Windies quicks .India u-19 have won 20 matches in a row and were universally recognized as the best batting lineup .So going by your logic Zimbabwe,England,Pak,BD all scored 200 plus against Windies so these countries are good at facing fast bowling with excellent batting techniques while India don't .Presenting solid fact based reasons is not offering excuses, please learn the difference between the two.

  • Reece_hill on February 15, 2016, 10:19 GMT

    @indianbarca. it was more than just an off-day. india were outplayed and exposed by WI fast bowlers. their poor technique was evident. excuses won't cut it.

  • IndianBarcafan on February 15, 2016, 10:02 GMT

    Maybe it was just a off-day for the entire batting lineup on a bouncy, fresh green pitch against two very good pacers supported by three other support seamers , in short pressure was unrelenting on batters as they were confused whether to stay put or hit there way out of trouble. Apart from winning the title u-19 WC is about the entire journey and development of players and graduating to the next phase. Rishabh Pant despite his keeping howlers in the final along with Anmolpreet,Arman Jaffer,Sarfaraz in the batting department shown through.Two pacers on show altough consistently clocked speeds in mid to late 130's but they need to learn to keep the ball up and swing it especially left armer Khaleed Ahmad who was on the shorted side and does not look to bring the ball back into the right handers.Most heartening thing was emergence of two old fashioned classical spinners in Mayank Dagar and leg Spinner Zeeshan Ansari.

  • paramnp9 on February 15, 2016, 7:22 GMT

    We paid the price for complacency at the top order. Pant and Kishan are stroke makers and their inconsistency affected the batting. May be we should have tried Sundar as opener. Sarfraaz needs a little bit more experience before he can be tried for the senior team. Avesh Khan and Lomror have impressed. Dagar is another player worth watching. Jaffar needs to get more exposure before he can be considered for even first class matches. He is a stroke maker but should show better temperament to fight it out. May be Zeeshan Ansari also may be able to play at the next level soon.All in all, a wonderful chance missed to get the cup, but well played youngsters. Best wishes to the Windies youngsters also. Hope Dravid will further work with the Indian youngsters to further groom them.

  • anver777 on February 15, 2016, 7:08 GMT

    Congrats WI for lifting the title for the 1st time !!! It was a low scoring affair, but was an exciting finish in the end ...... WI bowled very well initially where IND top order failed miserably and they didn't get that all important foundation from them !!!

  • Gopez on February 15, 2016, 6:54 GMT

    First of all, Indian team played very well, and WI did it better in the Final. I think these Juniors have given their hearts out in the tournament. They will better out many of the current sr national team members. As somebody said Sarfaraz is like Miandad, he should be immediately drafted in seniors, u don't find a witty character and batsmen like Miandad. Sarfaraz is a bit unorthodox but has shown he has his own game. We need guys who have attitude to score. Another guy could be Mahipal lomror has his own way of hitting out. Sarfaraz/Mahipal/Rishabh pant to be given more chances at senior level.

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