Top 5 Indian U-19 stars whose careers never got going

Prasad Mandati

Not all great beginnings lead to successful endings

Cricket has become an undetachable part of billions of souls across the globe. When it comes to India, it is more than just a game. Over the years, Indian cricket has been blessed with some imperiously talented cricketers to make Indian cricket a batting powerhouse in the International cricket.

The Indian batting legacy began from the great Sunil Gavaskar and then the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, shouldered the burden of Indian cricket for more than two decades. After the end of Tendulkar's era, it's the skipper of the current Indian cricket team, Virat Kohli, who has been carrying the legacy left by the yesteryear greats.

Gavaskar and Tendulkar inspired many youngsters to take up the sport. The likes of Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, and Prithvi Shaw built a massive reputation with some consistent performances at the age group level cricket. They then went on to represent India and became extremely successful.

However, there have been a few exceptionally talented cricketers who faded away, even finding it difficult to get a place in their domestic teams. Let us now take a look at five of those young cricketers who have failed to live up to the expectations:

#5 Pradeep Sangwan

CLT20 2012 Group A - Kolkata Knight Riders v Auckland Aces

The only Indian bowler to register a five-for against South Africa, in the 2008 U-19 World Cup, Pradeep Sangwan, was the go-to bowler for his skipper Virat Kohli. He provided crucial breakthroughs for India whenever required. Him being picked by Delhi Daredevils ahead of Virat Kohli in the 2008 IPL player drafts for U-19 cricketers, was a testimony to his potential.

He impressed one and all with his accurate fast bowling in his maiden Ranji season in 2007-08. After representing the Daredevils for three consecutive seasons in the IPL, Sangwan was bought by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2011. However, the left-arm pacer gradually lost his touch and also got himself into a controversy when he was tested positive during a random dope test conducted during the 2013 IPL. He was handed a 15-month ban from all forms of cricket by the BCCI.

After serving the ban, Sangwan came back and had a good 2015-16 Ranji season. This fetched him an IPL contract with Gujarat Lions for IPL 2016. But he could only play a total of 7 games for GL in 2016 and 2017 IPL seasons. 

His fine returns in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in 2018 helped him get an IPL contract worth ₹1.5 crore from Mumbai Indians for the eleventh edition of the IPL. But he got just a solitary game in the 2018 season.

He has been in and out of his state team in the domestic circuit and has not been that consistent apart from a few domestic seasons after the 2008 U-19 World Cup. Looking at the way things are unfolding for Sangwan, chances of him making it to the highest level of cricket are very less.

#4 Vijay Zol

Vijay Zol

Vijay Zol first burst onto the scene when he hit a 467 ball 451 in 2011 for Maharashtra in a first-class U-19 match. On the back of that record-breaking knock, Zol was fast-tracked into the India Under-19 squad at the age of 17.

He was the vice-captain of the Unmukt Chand-led team in the U-19 ICC World Cup 2012. He himself led the U-19 Indian team in the World Cup in 2014 to become one of the very few cricketers hold the distinction of representing their country in two U-19 World Cups. 

His decent outing with the triumphant Chand-led side in the 2012 U-19 World Cup where he scored 151 runs in 6 matches coming in at number three helped him made the captain for the 2014 U-19 World Cup. Under the leadership of Zol, the defending champions failed to retain the trophy as they were knocked out in the quarter-finals to end their tourney at 5th place. His aggregate of 120 runs in 5 matches didn't help India's cause.

Zol got an IPL contract from RCB in 2012 but didn't even get a game. He was bought back by RCB in 2014 and got three games of which he scored a mere 29 runs at a dismal average of 14.50.

Currently, the 24-year-old continues to play first-class cricket for his state team Maharashtra. After playing some consistent cricket for India A team for a few years, Zol lost his touch and hasn't looked likely to come back in contention since then. Thus far Zol has scored 733 runs in 15 first-class matches at an average of 34.90.

#3 Tanmay Srivastava

Tanmay Srivastava

Tanmay Srivastava is a very well known name to those who have followed the Kohli-led young Indian team in the 2008 ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup held in Malaysia. He was India’s best batsman in the tournament. 

Batting at the all-important number 3 position, Srivastava played many match-winning knocks to play a key role in India's triumphant tournament by notching up 262 runs in 5 innings at an average of 52.

For all the promise he showed at U-19 level, Srivastava soon lost the plot and failed to make it big later on. The Uttar Pradesh-born youngster was even offered an IPL contract by Kings XI Punjab after his strong 2008-09 Ranji season. He failed to make an impact in the IPL as he just scored a mere 8 runs in 2 innings. 

After 2012-13 Ranji season, Srivastava has even found it difficult to get a place in his Ranji team, Uttar Pradesh. In the 81 first-class matches Tanmay has played, he scored just 4590 runs at an unimpressive average of 36.42.

At the age of 29, Tanmay hasn't made it to the highest level of cricket yet and doesn't look like he is going to in the future.

#2 Sarfaraz Khan

Sarfaraz Khan

Sarfaraz Khan first broke into the scene when he scored a stellar knock of 421 ball 439 in his maiden Harris Shield game at the age of 12 in the year 2009. With some consistent performances at the age-group level, Sarfaraz made it to the Vijay Zol-led Under-19 team for the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup 2014.

The 21-year-old made an instant impact in the tournament by unveiling his wide array of strokes and brave hitting. Sarfaraz went on to score 211 runs in six games at a stupendous average of 70.33.

When Royal Challengers Bangalore signed him for ₹50 lakh in the auction of 2015, he became the youngest ever player to feature in the Indian Premier League. He played a gem of an innings against SRH and made the world sit take notice of his brave hitting skills in IPL 2015.

Later he also went on to represent the Ishan Kishan-led India U-19 team in 2016 U-19 World Cup and ended the tournament as the second highest leading run-scorer with an aggregate of 355 runs in 6 innings.

After that, there was a dip in his form and Sarfaraz never looked like the player he used to be. Currently, the youngster is even struggling to find a place in the domestic circuit and has been battling injuries as well. At present things are looking ominous for India's former U-19 star.

#1 Unmukt Chand

Unmukt Chand

Back in 2012, when Unmukt Chand led a U-19 World Cup-winning team, he was hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket. He was even compared to his statemate Kohli whose feat Chand had replicated. However, the journies of India's U-19 heroes are quite contrasting as Kohli went on to establish himself as one of the modern-day greats, on the other hand, Chand is still struggling to make it to the highest level of cricket.

The Delhi-born youngster led the U-19 Indian team from the front in the 2012 ICC World Cup by piling up as many as 246 runs in 6 innings at an impressive average of 49.20 which included an unbeaten ton against the runners-up Australia in the final.

The 25-year-old's numbers in first-class cricket for Delhi in the domestic circuit have not been that great as he has just scored 3184 runs in 60 matches at a below-par average of 34.23. Though he averages 40.23 odd in List-A cricket he has not been a regular member of the squad.

He got his maiden IPL call-up in 2011 from Delhi Daredevils. Later, he went on to play Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians. His figures in IPL too have been dismal as he has managed to aggregate a paltry 300 runs in 20 innings. Chand has been going unsold in the auctions since 2017.

Currently, Chand is playing for his state team Delhi in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, awaiting his most elusive India cap.