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13 February 201619:13

Consistent India faces pacey West Indies in title clash

Kishan's boys have the experience and an in-form Sarfaraz, but it still feels like a final exam, says the captain

Consistent India faces pacey West Indies in title clash  - Cricket News
As Ishan Kishan and Shimron Hetmyer walked to the outfield of the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur to pose for a photograph holding the trophy, it was a reminder of the entertaining cricket played over the last 18 days in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016. A total of 227 youngsters from 16 countries offered a glimpse into the future of the game, but no one was as consistent as India Under-19 and no team delivered under crunch situations likes the West Indies Under-19.

Fittingly then, as the tournament hits its crescendo, the two sides will face off in the final on Sunday (February 14). India has played in four finals and won three, the only team apart from Australia Under-19 to do so; West Indies lost in 2004 when the tournament was also held in Bangladesh.

The significance of the moment was not lost on either captain. The two teams, having come together only a few months ago, underwent meticulous preparation. India had a boot camp in Ramnagaram and won two triangular series, while West Indies had three camps and reached Bangladesh early for a bilateral series with the home team to get acquainted with the slow pitches.

As the teams went through the paces in their last practice session, the nervousness was comparable to that of writing the final school examinations.

Ishan Kishan, India’s captain, captured the mood. “Exams ka final hai, tho thoda acha mark aa jaye tho acha rahega (It’s the final examination, so if we get good marks then it will be nice),” said Kishan. “We don’t want to do anything silly in the last match that we regret in the future.

“Tension is there before every match and this is World Cup final,” he added. “West Indies has been playing well; they are not a weak team. We will try to eat as early as possible and go to sleep. All of us will remember our good performances. The more positive we stay before the match, the more helpful it will be.”

Rahul Dravid, India’s coach, took the team out for lunch after the practice session, while West Indies relaxed in the team hotel after theirs.

Sarfaraz Khan is set for potentially a big clash against Alzarri Joseph and Chemar Holder. While Sarfaraz has separated himself from the rest of the batsmen in the tournament with his maturity, Joseph and Holder have been the most threatening pace-bowling pair.

The way they have used their height to generate pace and bounce off the surface and kept an accurate line of attack has been one of the primary reasons for West Indies trumping Pakistan Under-19 and Bangladesh Under-19 in the previous two knockout games. That India has not been at the receiving end of such hostile pace through the tournament would work in West Indies’ favour.

Kishan, however, felt his batting unit had the wherewithal to handle the West Indies bowlers.

“Most of us who are batting in the top order play domestic cricket back in India. We face senior fast bowlers like (Ashok) Dinda bhai in first-class cricket,” said Kishan. “So, it’s not a problem, but it is about how we plan to tackle them and how we execute it on the field.”

Including Sarfaraz, who represents Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, India has six players in the line-up who have played senior cricket. But, Shimron Hetmyer, the West Indies captain, did not read much into it.

“We are not worried too much if they have played international cricket or IPL or how much exposure they have had so far,” said Hetmyer. “We just stick to our plans and hit our lengths as many times as possible. People that do play pace well also get out by getting bogged down.”

As has been the case throughout the tournament, each team’s focus will be to create pressure by bowling blocks of dot balls, and inducing the opposition batsmen to make mistakes.

While much has been spoken about the West Indies seamers, its top-order batting unit of Gidron Pope – according to Hetmyer, Pope has been called a “young Chris Gayle” for his power hitting – Tevin Imlach, Keacy Carty and Shaman Springer have been equally attractive to watch.

“It’s very significant for us,” said Hetmyer. “For us, being the team that’s in the final is a very good feeling. We have come a long way since January last year. From then to now, we have turned into a very good bunch of cricketers.”

But, no matter who lifts the trophy, players in both the teams have already indicated that they have it in them to be the future stars.

Teams (from):

India: Ishan Kishan (capt), Rishabh Pant (wk), Khaleel Ahmed, Zeeshan Ansari, Rahul Batham, Ricky Bhui, Mayank Dagar, Armaan Jaffer, Sarfaraz Khan, Amandeep Khare, Avesh Khan, Mahipal Lomror, Shubham Mavi, Anmolpreet Singh, Washington Sundar.

West Indies: Shimron Hetmyer (capt), Shahid Crooks, Keacy Carty, Michael Frew, Jyd Goolie, Tevin Imlach, Alzarri Joseph, Ryan John, Kirstan Kallicharan, Chemar Holder, Gidron Pope, Keemo Paul, Odean Smith, Shamar Springer, Emmanuel Stewart.