The ICC U19 Cricket World Cup is less than two months away. With 16 teams ready to lock horns in the competition, there are a number of potential #FutureStars hidden away in each unit.
The Windies are the defending champions, and not surprisingly, the team has some young guns raring to go against the best in the business from around the world.
Kirstan Kallicharan, an explosive top-order batsman from Trinidad, is one of those touted to be one for the future.
In May, 2014, while playing for Vishnu Boys Hindu College's U14 side, Kallicharan smashed an unbeaten 404 in a 35-over contest in Port of Spain. The previous year, Kallicharan had broken Windies legend Brian Lara's long-standing record for the highest individual score in Trinidad and Tobago's Secondary School Cricket League when he hit 194 against Carapichaima East.
“From a young age, he has got used to making big scores,” said Graeme West, the head coach of Windies Under-19s. “Kalli certainly is the kind of player who, when he does get in, he tends to go on and make it count. He has got good technical skill, but there's also a fearless element to go with that. These two things, when you put hand in hand, will look after him very well.”
Interestingly, Kallicharan, who will turn 19 in December, has among his idols not a Windies great but two Indians. “Growing up, I always loved Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Now presently, I like watching Virat Kohli. He is an inspiration for me,” he said.
Windies will open against host New Zealand Under-19 at Bay Oval in Tauranga on January 13.
“He is someone who appears quiet. Quiet, but destructive."
While Windies have Kallicharan, New Zealand is banking on Rachin Ravindra, an opening batsman who bowls left-arm spin, to use the home advantage for his team’s benefit and prepare a strong platform for himself on the way to becoming one of the #FutureStars.
“I think his main strength is batting, but his bowling is very effective too,” said Graeme Aldridge, the New Zealand U-19 assistant coach, of Ravindra.
Ravindra, whose parents are from Karnataka in India, was born in Wellington and has only travelled to Bangalore and Mysore only in the recent past to play matches against various academies.
“Whether he is playing or running drinks, he always has the best attitude, always putting the team first,” Dale Philips, Ravindra's teammate, pointed out. “He always has a smile on his face and just loves the game. That's always a good thing.”
Ravindra won the scholarship of US$15,000 from Martin Crowe’s family, in November 2015, and was one of the winners of the ASB Auckland Young Sportsperson of the Year award.
“I just want to have fun,” said Ravindra. “That's the reason why we play cricket – trying to win games for the team. I just want to get the best out of myself, and see where it takes me.”
Like Kallicharan, Tendulkar has been a favourite for Ravindra too: “I loved Sachin Tendulkar, the elegance with which he played. He looked so good while batting.”
Ravindra turned 18 this month, and will be looking forward to make a mark when the tournament gets underway with his side taking on Windies.
“He is always very cheerful and a great character to have in the team.”
Will Jacks is one of England U19's #FutureStars, and judging by his journey so far, he could leave a lasting impression in the tournament.
Jacks, 19, is a top-order batsman who first played for Surrey's U9 side. Jacks made his Second XI debut against Hampshire in 2015 and has played regularly ever since.
In 2016, Jacks made his debut for the England U19, hitting 77 in the second four-day fixture against India U19 in Nagpur and turning out in the three 50-over games that followed.
Jacks hit a century in a four-day game in Worcester against the same Indian side when it went to England in July.
“I am an all-rounder, I bat right-handed in top or middle order and I bowl right-arm off-spin,” said Jacks. “Kevin Pietersen is one of my heroes. When I think of him, I think of the Ashes. The time at The Oval Test, when he scored 158. Being a young lad watching, that really inspired me.”
“He has got a lot of assets and attributes,” James Taylor, former England batsman and the batting coach of the U-19 side, said. “He works incredibly hard and has an array of shots. I think Will Jacks has a tremendous amount of potential. So the foundations for Will to be a successful cricketer in the future is certainly there.”
England takes on Namibia U19 in its first match of the tournament at John Davies Oval in Queenstown on January 15.
“He is an all-round player, and a very strong striker of the ball. He has the ability to take the game away from the opposition.”