The supply of talent to the senior national team through the Under-19 route has been healthy from the time India won the Under-19 World Cup under Mohammad Kaif, in Sri Lanka in 2000. From that batch, Yuvraj Singh has gone on to be one of the biggest stars of Indian cricket. The 2002 side, led by Parthiv Patel, provided first glimpses of Irfan Pathan and in 2004, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, RP Singh and Dinesh Karthik came into focus. The 2006 edition saw the emergence of Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla and Cheteshwar Pujara. Ravindra Jadeja, who was also a part of that side, made his second U-19 World Cup appearance with the champion side of 2008, led by Virat Kohli and including Abhinav Mukund and Saurabh Tiwary. The ninth edition of the U-19 World Cup, in Australia this August, thus comes with a fair share of anticipation.
The U-19 Asia Cup, beginning on June 23 in Malaysia, is important preparation leading up to the World Cup. Quadrangular series wins in India in October 2011 and in Australia in April 2012 must have buoyed the team management, but there still is much work ahead of the World Cup.
All 15 in the Asia Cup squad may not make the flight to Australia, but the junior selectors' core group is obvious. Here's a look at what these 15 have done to merit a place in the team.
Unmukt Chand (captain): Chand, a right-hand opening batsman from Delhi, made two unbeaten centuries, including in the final in Australia, and two half-centuries to lead the team from the front in two quadrangular series wins. Chand has given a good account of himself with good scores for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy. He is the only player from this squad to have played in IPL-5.
Akshdeep Nath (vice-captain): Nath, a right-hand top order batsman from Uttar Pradesh, is also a part-time medium-pacer. His 55 in the final of the quadrangular series in India helped the team beat Sri Lanka in a low scoring thriller by five runs. Last season, he led Uttar Pradesh U-19 to the Vinoo Mankad title and finished the tournament with five half-centuries, including 88 in the final against Madhya Pradesh. He scored two hundreds and a fifty in the Cooch Behar Trophy in which Uttar Pradesh U-19 reached the semifinal.
Manan Vohra: Manan Vohra is an opening batsman who made his Ranji Trophy debut for Punjab in 2011-12. He started the season with an unbeaten 79 against Australia U-19 in the inaugural match of the quadrangular series in Visakhapatnam as India recorded the fastest chase for a total above 100 in U-19 cricket. He then made two centuries for Punjab U-19 in the Vinoo Mankad and Cooch Behar Trophies.
Akhil Herwadkar: Akhil Herwadkar, 17, is a right-handed batsman who has already made his debut for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. The cap came to him on the back of two centuries and six half-centuries in age group cricket in 2011-12.
Baba Aparajith: Baba Aparajith, 17, is an allrounder who bowls offspin and is a right-hand batsman. He made his Ranji Trophy debut for Tamil Nadu in 2011-12 following a century and a seven-wicket haul for Tamil Nadu Under-22 in the CK Nayudu Trophy, two five-wicket hauls and meaningful contributions with the bat for India U-19, and two centuries and a half-century for Tamil Nadu U-19.
Vijay Zol: Vijay Zol was awarded the MA Chidambaram Trophy by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for being the best Under-16 cricketer of 2010-11, but it was with his innings of 451* against Assam U-19 in a Plate league match of the Cooch Behar Trophy in December 2011 that he shot into prominence. He proved that that innings was no fluke with subsequent scores of 176, 292, 90, 73*, 121, 225* and 57 in Maharashtra's journey to the final, where they lost to Mumbai on first-innings lead. In all, he scored six centuries in 2011-12, propelling him to a List A debut for the senior team and to the India U-19 team for the quadrangular series in Australia.
Sandipan Das: Sandipan Das, a right-hand batsman who made his U-19 debut for Bengal in October 2009, hasn't been a part of the India Colts set-up till recently. However, after five centuries and two fifties for his state and zonal U-19 teams with a highest score of 254, he forced his way into the reckoning.
Vikas Mishra: Mishra, a left-arm orthodox spinner from Delhi, played very little cricket in 2011-12 but in his limited appearances, he made excellent impact. Among them was his spell of 7 for 112 against Gujarat, his best returns in a first-class game. He has represented India colts in nine matches.
Sandeep Sharma: Sandeep, a right-arm medium-pacer from Punjab, has already made an impression at the senior level with returns of 5 for 53 against Orissa in November 2011 in only his second Ranji Trophy appearance. Last season at the U-19 level, he was a consistent wicket-taker with four four-wicket hauls, including in the final against Australia at Townsville in April. Playing for Punjab U-19 in the Vinoo Mankad Trophy, he returned figures of 7 for 19 as Delhi were bowled out for 41 in a league game. He was a part of the 2010 U-19 World Cup team.
Rush Kalaria: Rush Kalaria is a left-arm medium-pacer who made his U-19 debut for Gujarat in 2009-10, and broke into the India U-19 side for the home quadrangular series last season. His influence was immediate both with bat and ball. In a league game against Sri Lanka, he steered India to a one-wicket victory with an unbeaten 47. In the final, he took 3 for 34 as India triumphed by five runs. On his List A debut for the senior state team, he took 4 for 21 and remained unbeaten on 15 as Gujarat beat Saurashtra by four wickets.
Mohsin Sayyed: Mohsin Sayyed, 16, is a left-arm seamer who has represented Maharashtra in five List-A games so far. Figures of 4 for 31 helped India bundle out England U-19 for 179 in their pursuit of 240 in the semifinal match of the quadrangular series in Australia. Last season, he was a consistent performer in Maharashtra's U-19 journey from the Plate league to the final of the Cooch Behar Trophy.
Harmeet Singh: Harmeet Singh is a slow left-arm spinner from Mumbai. With this comprehensive allround performance throughout the Cooch Behar Trophy last season, he led Mumbai U-19 to the title. He was a part of India U-19 team for the two quadrangular series. He has already represented Mumbai in three Ranji Trophy matches.
Smit Patel (wk): Smit Patel, a wicketkeeper-batsman from Gujarat, was in good touch last season. He scored a century for Gujarat U-22 in the CK Nayudu Trophy and followed it up with four hundreds and two fifties for the state U19 team. It earned him his List-A debut against Mumbai in February 2012. He was also a part of the India U-19 team during the quadrangular series in India and Australia, and scored an important 53 in the semifinal against England Down Under.
Sanju Samson (wk): Sanju Samson, a wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala, made his debut for the state U-22 team at the age of 15 in October 2009. Last season, his innings of 218 against Madhya Pradesh U-19 in the Cooch Behar Trophy soon after his Ranji Trophy debut brought him into prominence.
Kamal Passi: Kamal Passi is a right-arm medium-pacer from Punjab who had a consistent season for the state U-19 team. His two five-wicket hauls against Baroda and Hyderabad were principally responsible for Punjab reaching the knockout stage of the Cooch Behar Trophy. He was a part of the India U-19 team that played in the two quadrangular series last season.