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U-19 World Cup: An opportunity like never before

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Christchurch: It's considered the stepping stone for the stars of the future and 16 teams, including three-time champions India, would be aiming to discover their Virat Kohlis and Steve Smiths when the ICC Under-19 World Cup starts off here today.

From Kohli to Smith, most modern-day greats have learnt the ropes in the biennial event, which has gained significance with every passing edition.

The boys not only become men here, they also become household names with millions following the live broadcast of the competition.

The event begins today with Pakistan taking on Afghanistan, and hosts New Zealand facing reigning champions West Indies. India, eager to prove themselves after their disastrous showing in the Asia Cup, open their campaign against Australia at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.

The tournament's stature has risen to such an extent that a great like Rahul Dravid, the current India U-19 coach, would love to have been part of it back in the day. "We never played this tournament in my day. After 1988 they didn't hold the tournament for 10 years, so I've no exposure of playing and being part of this tournament. I tell a lot of these boys that I think it's a terrific opportunity for them to be a part of this tournament," Dravid had said in the lead up to the event.

Countless number of U-19 players have gone on to represent their countries at the highest level. Each edition unearths oodles of talent and makes them overnight stars, be it Rishabh Pant or Alzaari Joseph from the previous edition in 2016 when three-time champions India lost the final to the West Indies.

This edition too has created high expectations with a selected bunch already proving themselves at the first-class level.

The likes of India captain Prithvi Shaw, teammate Shubham Gill, Australia captain Jason Sangha, Pakistan pacer Shaheen Afridi, Afghanistan batting sensation Baheer Shah, they all go into the event after making a mark on the domestic circuit back home.

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