The joyous celebrations by Rahul Dravid’s young wards after India won the ICC U-19 World Cup in New Zealand brought the curtains down on one of the most dominant campaigns by any team — senior or junior — in recent cricketing history.
Prithvi Shaw’s boys rolled over all comers in such emphatic fashion that only a cruel twist of fate or the glorious uncertainties of the game could have denied them the title.
Imagine defeating strong pre-tournament favourites Australia by 100 runs in the league and again by eight wickets in the final after Pakistan were brushed aside by a whopping 203 runs in the semi-final.
In between, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe were crushed by 10 wickets each and Bangladesh whipped by 131 runs in the quarter-final.
Shaw’s team deserve to celebrate a triumph they, or the entire nation, will not forget in a hurry.
And celebrate they should, because even though the first chapter in their cricketing lives may have seemed like a bed of roses, there are no guarantees that the future will as rosy.
The youngsters must keep in mind Dravid’s words of wisdom that the under-19 title is only the first step towards grinding out a successful career, not the culmination of their ambitions.
Success at the under-19 level does not ensure a berth in the senior team. The likes of Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif and a few more are but exceptions to the rule.
From the 2012 side that won the under-19 World Cup under Unmukt Chand, only one player made the grade to the senior level — Sandeep Sharma, who played two T20s against Zimbabwe when the regulars were rested.
Shaw, Shubman Gill, Manjot Kalra and their team-mates will continue to have Dravid’s guidance when they graduate to the India ‘A’ level. They should make the most of their mentor’s sage advice.
As it is, these players will now be scrutinized even more closely than before, be it in the IPL or while playing for their respective state sides. The burden of expectations has only increased further.
They cannot rely on the under-19 level any more. That road was closed by the BCCI on Dravid’s insistence that no player should be selected for another junior World Cup if he has already featured in one.
The much-maligned BCCI did well to pick Dravid to look after the under-19 and ‘A’ teams when guidance is needed most. It speaks volumes of Dravid’s sagacious personality that he preferred to look after the juniors when the high-profile job of senior coach was his for the taking.
It says a lot about the young talent in South Asia that three of the four semi-finalists — India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — were from the region. Many of the players may graduate to the senior level, but Indian cricketers have the advantage of being tutored by one of the finest in the business.
The robust domestic set-up created by the BCCI that allows players from modest backgrounds and cricketing outposts to dream big and realise their early goals will make other nations envious.
But what matters most is how many of them are able to build a successful cricketing career at the top level.