Australia v India, ICC U-19 World Cup, final Townsville August 25, 2012

India back their big-game prowess

In three previous finals over the past year, India have been undefeated, a run that they will look to extend on Sunday

This India Under-19 side knows how to get to a final. Had they made just one or two over the last 12 months, it could have been put down to a hot streak or even luck. But Unmukt Chand's team has qualified for the final of every tournament it has played in: the battle against Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium on Sunday for the World Cup is its fourth.

Their first final was in a quadrangular series - a tournament also involving Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia - in India in September 2011. The next was in another quadrangular, this time in Townsville, against England, New Zealand and Australia in April this year. The third was in the Asia Cup in Malaysia in June. And now this.

India's route to the World Cup final has been bumpy. Before they left for Brisbane they lost opener Manan Vohra and seamer Mohsin Sayyed to injuries. And once they began their campaign, their batsmen struggled on the tough pitches in Townsville but, to varying degrees, so have the batsmen of every other team. They've had to fight hard for all of their victories, which were narrower than some of the margins might suggest.

"It's been really good, we faltered initially and after sometime we got into the groove, and now we're seeing that we're peaking at the right time," Chand said about the campaign so far. "We've stumbled, the journey hasn't been that easy for us, there have been ups and downs, that's the best part of it. That's really got us together.

"We take a little time to adjust to the conditions and then, when you lose at first, you tend to come closer. That's happened with us: usually when you lose you drift away, but for us we've come together."

India might have got their combination wrong in the first game, picking three spinners and only two seamers on what Chand called a "treacherous" pitch. Sent in to bat, they were limited to 166 for 8 and lost by four wickets, though their bowlers kept West Indies chasing until the 48th over. Though their hopes of topping Group C were gone, Chand said there was no panic because India had been slow starters on their previous visit to Townsville as well.

"It wasn't something that came to us like a shock. It wasn't that easy in those conditions. We lost a match, it's okay," Chand said. "We still had two matches to go, so we knew that we'll win those matches and make the knockout stage."

They tinkered with their combination for the next two group games, bringing in seamers Kamal Passi and Ravikant Singh, for medium-pacer Rush Kalaria and left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, who would have played but for an illness. Harmeet recovered in time for the knockouts though and replaced the spinner Vikas Mishra, as India finally found their best XI.

Passi took six wickets in his first game, Ravikant took five in his second and Sandeep Sharma has been swinging the new ball around corners with exceptional control. Harmeet attacked with guile and flight, while Baba Aparajith contained with his offspin. There is no weak link. Passi has become the crowd's darling, while Ravikant smiles when fans call him, Rajnikanth, a film star with a cult following among Indians. The bowlers have made up for the batsmen's struggle.

"The bowling has been really good from the very beginning," Chand said. "Sandy is the spearhead of the attack, Passi has contributed after his injury in the Asia Cup and Ravikant has come up too as a surprise. He's a newcomer... it's his first tournament, that too a World Cup. The way he's bowled is fantastic."

India also relied on their bowlers to do a bit of batting for them. Passi clubbed 24 off five balls against Zimbabwe to post a strong total, and Harmeet and Sandeep pulled off a tense one-wicket victory in the quarter-final against Pakistan. Before coming to Australia, India's coach Bharat Arun had said the team had a motto of "keeping a cool head to win a hot game." There is no better example of that than Harmeet and Sandeep calmly playing out seven overs to score the ten runs needed to get to the semi-final.

Five Indian batsmen have scored seven fifties so far, and there have been others who've got starts as well, but a collective performance has been lacking. They took a step towards remedying that in the semi-final against New Zealand, where the top order produced its best performance to date. Although there was a middle-order collapse, India had done enough to compile a match-winning total. "We have showed big-match temperament, we have done well when it counted most, people have contributed well at the crunch times," Chand said. "That's a good sign for us and hope we do it in the final as well."

No one has made more than 78 as well and Chand emphasised the importance of converting a start in the final. "Once you are set you should not throw your wicket away in these conditions because it is really difficult for a new batsman to come in and score runs straightaway," he said. "This is what we've been telling each other, that if you're set, then please play the whole innings."

India might not be everyone's favourite to win Sunday's summit clash. Their bowling has been outstanding but their batting has been patchy and they are facing Australia at home. The players will be quietly confident, though, because apart from knowing how to get to finals, they also know how to win them. Of the three they reached over the last 12 months, they tied the Asia Cup final and won both in the quadrangulars, including one against Australia in Townsville only a few months ago.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sandeep on August 26, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    @ Alexk400 : well you proved to be wrong mate... Some times teams down under will roar as Indians done it today. They grinded Aussies well today.

  • Vidyashankar on August 26, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    CONGRATS INDIA on a great win. Well done Unmukt Chand and rest of the boys. Proud of you. Cheers.

  • thusin on August 26, 2012, 4:59 GMT

    In a different note, I am quite amazed at the Indian support and crowds at OZ world cup. Without India, i cant see how Cricket will prevail in Australia in the long run. The OZ crowd attendance have been awful in this tournament, and now it has become a norm that India is essential to have a good game of cricket. Just my wistful thinking, Australia should do some long term plan, but quick marketing campaign to get their own home crowds attracted to their team, else Cricket Australia will hard to sustain life without Indian crowds... In the talent perspective i think India is soo far ahead than the Ozi, and they have loooot of catching up to do.

    SL Cricket fan.

  • thusin on August 26, 2012, 4:53 GMT

    As a neutral observer, i can say that Team India will rule in OZi. As the new superpower in cricket there wont be any match for India in any OZ condition. Oz will give a game of it, but the economies of Return will realistically show Indian domination over Australia in U19 and in any form of cricket. India have set up their infrastructure really nicely and they have a better long term plan than any country as far as i can say. Good luck team India, and Ozi, u guys just keep watching as they lift World Cups..

  • Alex on August 26, 2012, 3:29 GMT

    i thought they would have been out long time ago...its a surprise they still hanging...i think they will lose his game..because big guns are not peaking...they have few aparjith , zoel..grinders..grinding respectable total at best

  • Naresh on August 25, 2012, 21:41 GMT

    We Indian fans are proud that our team has got thus far. In the final today let the best team on the day win - I hope it is ours. We can least prove our critics wrong - they keep telling us we are "flat track bullies" Yes we are bullies - but wherever we play all others were there and had just the same opportunity to win as we had.

  • Senthil on August 25, 2012, 18:39 GMT

    If this U-19 team can't win, I don't think how India's next U-19 can win? As many as 6 players in the playing 11 has played in India's First Class matches or List A matches, which meant the BOYS are already good enough to compete with men to get a place in the XI on their merit. I feel this final is the day Indian batting going to click as a unit and our bowlers will definitely keep doing the good work

  • Ashok on August 25, 2012, 15:48 GMT

    India reached the Finals because of their grit & determination to win. They played as a Team first & as individuals next. Not all the batsmen contibuted consistently. The Bowlers pulled out the victory when needed because of their grit. Their wins against Pakistan & NZ were too close to call but showed the character of the team. It is unfortunate that India under MS Dhoni did not show the same determination despite having top 4 batsmen in the World in the XI. This young Indian team has superstars in Chand & Zol who did not exactly burn the track. But the next lot of batsmen like Chopra, Aparajith rose to the occasion. This team batted & bowled "adequately to Win". On the other hand the Australian team thrashed the opposition. I still feel if India play as a team as they did so far, they will come out on Top. 11 guys who are talented & determined not to lose & each member contributing his bit makes a winning combination. India has to do it once more & slay the Goliath!. Lets GO India!

  • Manjunath on August 25, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    Good Luck Team India! So far you have shown what a team with loads of confidence can do, and you also showed the rest the very definition of PATIENCE, COURAGE and DETERMINATION. Lets prove the critics wrong and show them there can be a gold cup amongst the silver trophies your team picked up till now. CHAND you are the go to person for India and lead from the front. Good luck! and lets end SUNDAY with lots of SMILES and moment to cherish for rest of your lives. Cheers!

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