The 2020 U-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa will get underway in just a few days' time with a lot of potential future superstars taking part in this tournament which is regarded as the pinnacle for age-group cricketers.
This biennial tournament has propped up supremely talented young cricketers and you can be sure that this year will also see a lot of relatively unknown yet prodigious cricketers trying to make a name for themselves. From Virat Kohli to Kagiso Rabada to Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw, a successful U-19 Cricket World Cup has seen several budding stars catapult themselves to overnight stars.
As usual, India will go in as the favourites with a lot of their players already bagging IPL contracts while Bangladesh will also be strong contenders to lift the title. Recently, Sri Lanka lifted the Tri-series Trophy which featured hosts West Indies and England while Zimbabwe also gave a good account of themselves by beating South Africa and New Zealand in the recent Quadrangular series. This shows the kind of talent that is available a
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While many of the avid cricket fans around the world would be scrambling to know a bit more about the players who would be featuring in the upcoming World Cup, we have decided to make it a little easier for everyone by listing out the top 5 cricketers to watch out for.
#5 Wesley Madhevere
A slightly surprising pick but Wesley Madhevere's recent performances warrant a spot for him in this list. Interestingly, this is Madhevere's third appearance in a U-19 World Cup.
The all-rounder was in sparkling form during the recent Quadrangular series in South Africa with him finishing as the fifth-highest scorer in the tournament by notching up 150 runs in four matches. The best thing about Madhevere's batting is that he always gets his team off to rapid starts with a good level of consistency. The youngster is especially lethal against the pacers during the powerplay overs.
If this isn't enough, Madhevere is also a regular bowler for Zimbabwe with his disciplined off-spin acting as the glue amongst a bowling attack that could tend to be expensive. This frugal nature of Madhevere's bowling is reflected in the fact that his seven wickets came at an economy rate of 4.23.
Given all these attributes, it surely wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Zimbabwe's hopes of pulling off some upsets in the World Cup rests heavily on their 'experienced' campaigner's shoulders.
#4 Jonathan Bird
A player from the host country need not be a mandatory pick but Jonathan Bird walks into this list on the basis of his consistent efforts. Even though South Africa have been in poor form, Bird has come across as a ray of light amidst poor team performances.
After topping the charts with 356 runs from six matches even as South Africa lost with a disappointing 7-0 margin against Pakistan last year, Bird continued his impressive form in the recent bilateral series against India. Yet again, South Africa lost the series 2-1 but the southpaw was in top form to score 129 runs in three matches. He also played a crucial role with his unbeaten 88-run knock when South Africa beat India in the final Youth ODI.
The 18-year-old hit the ground running straightaway against Sri Lanka in a warm-up match by scoring 71 runs to signal the kind of form he is in currently.
When Bird's consistent run-scoring is in itself invaluable for South Africa U-19 team, he also provides some bowling variety with his left-arm wrist spin which could turn out to be a bonus for the young Proteas outfit.
#3 Jake Fraser-McGurk
This little Aussie batsman could turn out to be one of the surprise packages in this U-19 Cricket World Cup. The 17-year-old Jake Fraser-McGurk might be short and wiry but don't take him lightly as he can pack a punch.
The youngster only made his state debut for Victoria in November last year but he made an immediate impression with a fifty in his very first inning. The fact that his 51-run knock came against a Queensland attack involving the likes of Mark Steketee, Cameron Gannon, Jack Wildermuth and Mitchell Swepson is also admirable to notice.
Just days after that knock, Fraser-McGurk went onto compile a neat half-century on his List A debut against New South Wales. This showed how the middle-order batsman has already taken to domestic cricket like a duck to water. With good senior-level performances on his back, Jake Fraser-McGurk could light up South Africa in the next couple of weeks.
#2 Rohail Nazir
Pakistani captain Rohail Nazir is undoubtedly another future star who will look to leave his mark on the South African shores during this U-19 World Cup. This will be Nazir's second appearance at this tournament with the wicket-keeper batsman featuring in New Zealand a couple of years ago too.
Although Nazir had a somewhat inconsistent outing in New Zealand, the 18-year-old has made a lot of positive strides ever since that tournament. In September 2018, Nazir notched up a scintillating 130-run knock on his first-class debut for Islamabad in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
More recently, Nazir also ended as the highest run-getter in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup with 302 runs in five matches. At the U-19 level too, Nazir has been incredibly consistent to build up an enviable career record. In 29 matches at this level, Nazir has scored 1116 runs so far.
Given his talent, it would be obvious that Pakistan will look at Rohail Nazir for the majority of the team's runs in the U-19 World Cup.
#1 Yashasvi Jaiswal
The easiest pick from this list, Yashasvi Jaiswal already comes across as a nailed-on future star. Jaiswal's rags to riches story is something that almost all Indian cricket fans would have to know of by now with his performances getting better day by day.
He has become such a well-known face now that Rajasthan Royals wouldn't have hesitated while parting away with a huge sum of ₹2.4 crore during the recent IPL Auction.
The southpaw's rise to fame began after he started scoring in a prolific manner for the Indian U-19 side in various matches. After impressing in the tour of Sri Lanka in July-August last year, Jaiswal finished the 2018 U-19 Asia Cup as the leading scorer with 318 runs.
Since then, the 18-year-old went on to make his senior cricket debut for Mumbai in the early part of 2019. However, Jaiswal actually announced himself on the domestic scene only in the second half of the year when he smashed a double hundred against a Jharkhand bowling attack that included the likes of Varun Aaron, Rahul Shukla, Shahbaz Nadeem and Anukul Roy. This stunning knock also made him the youngest ever to score a double century.
While Jaiswal's form in the lead-up to the tournament has been slightly patchy, he showed signs of his best in the warm-up match against Afghanistan U-19. Moreover, Jaiswal has also shown how handy he can be with his leg-spin bowling by picking up quite a few wickets in the bilateral series against South Africa a few weeks ago.
Don't be surprised if this prodigy goes onto win the 'Player of the Tournament' award while also helping his team to lift the U-19 World Cup in a little over three weeks time.