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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Harmeet Singh and Unmukt Chand ready for internationals

Keeping them down at the Under-19 level to improve India's chances at winning the World Cup isn't right

Ian Chappell

August 26, 2012

Comments: 149 | Text size: A | A

Harmeet Singh bowls, India v Pakistan, quarter-final, ICC Under-19 World Cup 2012, Townsville, August 20, 2012
India may have found their next Bishan Bedi in Harmeet Singh but will they handle him right? © ICC/Getty
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Players/Officials: Unmukt Chand | Harmeet Singh
Series/Tournaments: ICC Under-19 World Cup
Teams: Australia | India

The first thing that strikes you about the ICC Under-19 World Cup is that the young fast bowlers are well ahead of the batsmen in their development. But there's one striking exception: the tantalising talents of Indian left-arm orthodox spinner Harmeet Singh. He bowls like Bishen Bedi, with that same natural flight and guile that would right now place him as the best spin bowler in any Test side bar England. Harmeet has the skills to be a successful spinner, and only needs to develop the necessary temperament to handle the tough environment of international cricket and have a sympathetic captain.

That leads to the question: is the U-19 competition the right career path to the top level? It is, for the bulk of the players, a few of whom will make it to international cricket, while the majority will fade away to life as an obscure Trivial Pursuit question. However, it's not the right thoroughfare for exceptional talents like Harmeet and one or two other players on show in Townsville.

The very best players need to be constantly challenged from a young age, and that means regularly being upgraded when they have success at a lower level. I recall an exasperated Rod Marsh, when he was head coach at the Australian Academy, blurting out: "Thank heavens for Tasmania." When I asked why, he replied: "They pick young players on ability, not age." Tasmania's selectorial wisdom resulted in the fast-tracking of David Boon and Ricky Ponting.

That's why the big money needs to be spent on finding the right selectors rather than being lavished on a small-town population of coaches who often make decisions to justify their existence rather than in the best interests of the players.

A cricketer like Harmeet will stagnate if he's left for too long at a lower level, because that leads to sloppy habits. Harmeet is ready to be considered for national selection.

The other U-19 player in that category is the India captain Unmukt Chand. He's a very talented batsman and should also be consistently plying his trade at a higher level. Both Harmeet and Chand have played first-class cricket but it isn't doing their games any good to participate in an U-19 World Cup even if it does help India win the trophy. There's always a temptation to win another trophy but it mustn't be done at the cost of a young player's development. Rodney was right. Players must be chosen for their skill level, not their age.

India are the envy of the other major nations. Their best young batsmen - in Townsville and at home - are technically better than most of their counterparts from the other Test-playing nations. All that Indian players need is regular exposure to bouncy surfaces against strong opposition and the national team's recent travails in England and Australia will soon be a thing of the past.

Australia, on the other hand, seem to be going through a period of producing solid but unspectacular batsmanship. It's unclear at the top level where the next Ponting or Michael Clarke will come from, and that picture becomes no clearer after watching their U-19s play.

Cricket needs artistic and dominant batsmen of varying styles but the future in that regard is not looking so rosy. Are the right methods being used to develop young batsmen?

I'd like to see an alternative option provided where young batsmen get the opportunity to develop along the lines of Sachin Tendulkar and other successful international batsmen. That way they play a lot of pick-up matches, either on a maidan, in a backyard or on a street, and develop naturally so they don't look like they have dropped off the end of a coaching conveyor belt.

Young batsmen who have to face the likes of Harmeet Singh are going to need sharp footwork and agile brains. I don't see the current method where a young player has to endure hours of structured net sessions and endless deliveries from a bowling machine producing batsmen with those capabilities.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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Posted by Selassie-I on (August 29, 2012, 13:54 GMT)

As usual Chappel is wrong in most of what he says.. I'd rate Amjal as the best spinner around at the mo, not Swanny(I am English too) probably Herath after with Swann in 3rd.. joint with Rehman at the moment. I don't know how he can say this young fellow would decamp any spinner in the world, bar Swann, at the moment when he's never been truly tested. The only thing he's right about is that Australia's cupboard is BARE!

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 28, 2012, 14:53 GMT)

@LillianThomson - Your comments about Oxbridge belong to a bygone era. The players you mention studied at Oxbridge at least 40 years ago. The idea that young Indians need to attend foreign universities to learn about leadership is absurd as India has many fine academic institutions of its own. Your belief in Oxbridge as a source of cricketing education is also somewhat outdated - how many English county cricketers, let alone international players, were educated there?

Posted by mrcool on (August 28, 2012, 11:35 GMT)

Robin uthappa is more capable player compared to chand but selectors spoiled his career.

Posted by Jack_Tka on (August 28, 2012, 7:14 GMT)

The best spinner in the world right now is SAEED AJMAL (Pak) followed by HERATH(SL). Every other spinner(including SWANN) is average and can be good in favourable conditions or may be once in a while. So Harmeet Singh is out of contention right now when Ashwin/Ojha are doing pretty well for India. Regarding Unmukt, with Sehwag/Gambhir, I don't see him getting a chance. Gi8ving him a chance means benching either one of the openers which might lead to some turbulent environment within the Indian team.

Posted by PointFielder on (August 28, 2012, 5:40 GMT)

There is half justification in what Chappell says. That is a promising player should be promoted and developed. However, i doubt the promotion should happen from U-19 to international level.Harmeet might even struggle in Deodhar / C K Nayyudu trophies or even in ranji. Have we tested him there? No. Why is there so much hurry? Is it because of the excitement? I remember it was Ian Chapell who said Dumminy will be a great batsman after his performances against Australia. I think he is doing the same mistake again.There is at the most a probable of 30 in preparatory camps. Should India overlook Ashwin, Ojha, Rahul, Harby, Chawla, Iqbal etc. Not to mention many other established Ranji spinners who cannot make even the Challengers squads. Apart from that has he considered that in Ranji 2011, Indian pacers were more successful than spinners and they are knocking the door as well for places in the bowling attack.

Posted by   on (August 28, 2012, 0:28 GMT)

@PACERONE... your criteria for declaring a pitch to be flat or bouncy is laughing stock... if India clicks then its flat and if they loose wickets (even by playing wrong/adventurous shots) then the wicket is termed as fast and bouncy.... In final, Australia did struggle initially and were 38/4 only to be rescued by very good batting by next few batsmen... how can you term it as a flat wicket... and then it was good batting display by indian colts and took the cup.... I remember the similar comments for the second ODI in recently concluded IND-SL series... it was poor shot selection and batsmen played adventurously and did loose wickets.. the batsmen played poorly and rightly so we lost the match... howcome that alone pitch became a sporty/bouncy wicket while the rest 4 simply flat.. grow up mate..

Posted by Champ2000 on (August 27, 2012, 20:40 GMT)

Apples to Oranges. Harmit looks good but without even playing single test he can not be number 2. Sammy ebign number 1 is debatable and perhaps only proved with last ashes data. what about ajmal, herath, tahir, aswin..

I think MR Chappel is trying to cricket sirr here.. Or perhaps have more reader, it in fashin to say good things about indian players when they achive even little similar saying only good things about SRT (No disprespect)

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (August 27, 2012, 17:15 GMT)

I think Ian is trying to stir up a controversy by claiming Harmeet the best spin bolwer in the world. If he means at the U19 level then I might agree but to compare Harmeet with senior cricketers without having played at the same level is a bit too pre mature to me. Harmeet definitely has talent and only time will tell whether he can be a successfull test match bowler or not. As far as Unmukt's batting abilities are concerned, it's no surprise as India always has and always will produce batting talents like Unmukt, but the biggest concern is no fast bowler in near sight or even in the blind spot. Sandeep Sharma looked good at U19 level but doubt if he can get same level of success. For all those who are behind SRT don;t forget when many were playing U19 SRT at 16 was facing the likes of GR8 Wasim Akram and Waqar. Thats special. Finally @RandyOz: pl get a hobby

Posted by   on (August 27, 2012, 16:44 GMT)

@uksar think you missed the match..aussie pacers bowled at 140 odd and beyond,and the bounce was even odder.their bowlers are really good.better than a few test playing nations' bowling attack

Posted by jay57870 on (August 27, 2012, 16:03 GMT)

Ian - Not so fast! Prophet Chappell's making premature predictions again! This may shock Ian, but his "best spin bowler in any Test side bar England" - Graeme Swann (?) - debuted at an over-ripe age of 29! Others: Imran Tahir at 32 & Saeed Ajmal at 31! Even Ponting at 21 & Clarke at 23 were not fast-trackers. Sure there's a place for late bloomers: Whither Australia without the Husseys in internationals around age 30? So much for Ian's voodoo rites of "stagnate ... leads to sloppy habits"! He has used the "Age" card to coerce players to retire. How wrong he was re: Tendulkar with his "Mirror, Mirror on the wall" dictum in 2007! Now he's quick on the draw with "Pick young players on ability, not age"! Recall his prophecy of Duminy as the "next big thing"? India's still waiting for Rohit Sharma to break through. Yes, Harmeet & Chand are exceptional U-19 players. Like Kohli & Pujara they'll break into internationals, but only when they're ready. For their sake: Don't rush them, Ian!

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Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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