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U19 WC: For once, the India-Pakistan hype was worth it


India U19 may have beaten their Pakistani counterparts by 10 wickets, but the recognition it brought to the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Divyansh Saxena, Fahad Munir and Haider Ali, all the hype was admissible.

When you and I have bought into the India-Pakistan rivalry over so many decades, just think of the level of fascination a youngster growing up would have with an India-Pakistan game. When despite the dipping competitive edge between the neighbours, the streets in both the countries still turn silent upon the arrival of an India-Pakistan marquee World Cup clash, just imagine the level of involvement of a young mind himself embroiled in learning the tricks of the same trade.

For the Rohail Nazirs and Priyam Gargs, the senior Indian team clashing with Pakistan probably held the idea of the ultimate battle ground, in a manner of saying. Even if they wouldn't have seen Sachin upper cutting Shoaib Akhtar for a six over third man or Saeed Anwar taking the Indian bowlers to the cleaners, they must not only have heard plenty of folklores about the incidents but have watched those iconic clips many times over.

When the once-in-blue-moon opportunity presented itself to the young cricketers, with they themselves having an opportunity to have a taste of an Indo-Pak encounter, the high was what no steroid could induce.

It goes without saying that the colts not only admire but go even copy their idols. While Yashasvi Jaiswal "admires the God of cricket", Indian wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel looks up to South Africa's AB de Villiers. The scene on the other side of the Radcliffe line is no different.

Tahir Hussain's wicket celebration is a copy of Shahid Afridi's celebration. Spinner Aamir Ali's wicket celebration is a copy of Hasan Ali's celebration. Top order batsman Haider Ali is seen as the future Babar Azam in his homeland. The claim finds substance in Ali's cover drive.

Despite age-level cricket having come a long way, it stills pales in comparison to the eyeballs attracted by the the seniors. Players on both sides knew on Tuesday that not only a century or a five-wicket haul but even an athletic display on the field or a big-hearted gesture can earn them the fame and recognition which even several years of consistent performances wouldn't.

In fact, Divyansh Saxena’s diving catch attracted as much traction on social media as Kartik Tyagi’s searing yorker or Mohammad Haris’ sweep for six.

Having won the toss and deciding to bat first, Pakistan ran into the pace of Kartik Tyagi and Sushant Mishra. Sushant removed Mohammad Huraira, who made his U-19 debut in the last match, in his first over to push Pakistan on the back foot.

Another blow from leg spinner Ravi Bishnoi of Fahad Munir left Pakistan at 34/2. A partnership between Haider Ali and skipper Rohail Nazeer then steadied the ship. However, it was not the best of balls from part-time spinner Yashasvi Jaiswal which broke the partnership. There was not much contribution from the other batsmen as Pakistan were bowled out for just 172.

In reply, Yashasvi Jaiswal, who struggled to get out of the blocks, gradually grew into his work and began to play shots after reaching his half-century. He was well-assisted by Divyansh Saxena who took the pressure off Jaiswal by finding the boundary in the initial part.

The bottomline - a 10-wicket victory for India - may not convey it but it was not a cakewalk by any means against the pace of Tahir Husain and Mohammad Amir Khan and the spin of Qasim Akram and Fahad Munir.

Had it not been for the hype, how else would you have come to know of the brimming talent of the colts? Yes, a few avid followers had already heard of the inspiring rags-to-riches story of centurion Yashashvi Jaiswal, but, had it not been for the hype, how would you come to know of the searing pace of Kartik Tyagi, or the guile of leggie Ravi Bishnoi?

How else would you get to know of the latest models of the assembly line of quick bowlers that Pakistan continues to produce; Tahir Hussain and Amir Khan being the latest additions.

Owing to all the hype, rubbish it as you may, the general viewer who otherwise has too much on his or her plate to tune into under-19 action also gravitated towards the marquee semi-final. All this hype and publicity then, served the future Virat Kohlis and Babar Azams just perfectly.

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