India beat Australia in the opener, but that is no guarantee they can repeat the feat. Here's what they must do in the final.
This is an Indian side with few obvious weaknesses. They’ve coasted through the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup so far without breaking a sweat – their smallest margin of victory was by 100 runs over Australia, who they will face again in the Final, in the tournament opener. Since then however, Australia have been a much-improved side. India still have work ahead of them, but if they do these five things they will be well set.
Be wary against complacency and handle the pressure
India have barely been tested this tournament, especially in the field, and beat Australia earlier in the competition. But they mustn’t go into the Final expecting it will be easy, or their standards may well slip. You can be sure head coach Rahul Dravid will tell his players not to be cocky. Now India just need to listen.
Make sure their middle order is ready
The Australian head coach, Ryan Harris, has already shown where he thinks India’s weaknesses lie. “I think their batting is strong at the top, but I don't think their lower order has been really exposed – I guess our job is to get through those players at the top and get into the lower order," said Harris. “Don't get me wrong, they're playing some really good cricket and are a really good side. I guess our job is for our quicks to get through the top order and put pressure on the middle order. If we do that, we'll come out successful.”
It is a point well made. India’s top order has helped them post mammoth totals so far, but in the two knockout matches against Bangladesh and Pakistan, their middle order didn’t manage to kick on after the top order was dismissed. Riyan Parag is yet to display his capabilities since recovering from a finger injury, while Harvik Desai’s only half-century came opening the batting against Zimbabwe after qualification was already sealed. India will hope their middle order finds timely form on Saturday.
Snuff out Jack Edwards
The Australian opener might not have been discussed in as great length as India’s batting starlets, but he has been Australia’s most consistent performer with bat in hand, playing both the anchor and aggressor role when required. His 188 runs in four matches have come at an average of 47 and a strike-rate of 105.61, and India will be well aware of his skills, given that he scored a 73 against them in the opener, as well as returning 4/65 with the ball. Edwards’s 72 against Afghanistan in the Super League Semi-Final broke the back of the chase and earned him a Man of the Match award. If he can be dismissed early, India will have an advantage.
Have a plan B
India’s dominance this tournament, perhaps surprisingly, has been more down to their bowlers than their batsmen. In Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Ishan Porel and Shivam Mavi they have bowlers capable of topping 140 KPH, while Anukul Roy and Abhishek Sharma have provided excellent slow-bowling support.
But while they are clearly a strength of this side, they have also yet to show how they can succeed under pressure. India captain Prithvi Shaw has indicated they won’t change their approach even if a partnership does form. “You never know how the situation is going to be in the final,” he said. “We’ve not been under pressure right now, especially while we’re bowling, but we’ve beaten good teams like Pakistan, Bangladesh, all the teams. So just focussing on the process right now, and we’ll see what happens.”
It remains to be seen whether the bowlers can walk Shaw’s talk.
Sing while they’re winning
This is surely the last time these players will all take the field together. The BCCI has a strict policy that no player plays two ICC U19 CWCs, and while many from this a talented group of players are expected to go on to play international cricket, many surely won’t. But the players shouldn’t worry about all that; instead they should ensure they have fun playing a Final, playing together, and enjoy the occasion.
Shaw was determined to make the memories sweeter with a victory. “Everyone is saying after this we might not be able to play together again for India at U19 level,” he said. “It’s a Final, and if we can win the World Cup, we can part with some good memories. There has already been lot of memories created in this tournament – lot of fun, both on and off the field. These memories will become even better if we win tomorrow.”