Till a few weeks back, Unmukt Chand was a good player. Today, he is a star and the future of Indian cricket. While he deserves accolades that come his way, as much as any other player in the side, it (the sheer magnitude) is quite detrimental for these players in the larger scheme of things.
Winning the World Cup at any age is a daunting prospect. At 19, it can give one a high like nothing else (or nothing legal anyway). While this author has not even remotely come close to experiencing such a joy, a fair estimation may be made and it can be deduced that the feeling itself is like being at the absolute summit.
It's about respect more than love
After all is said and done, winning the U-19 World Cup is actually a firm-push off the starting line at the international stage. It is not the half-way mark and is not anywhere close to the finishing line unless the person concerned wants it to be.
It is a grueling world. Fame has been achieved. It is about earning the respect now and keep the good performances coming in. A certain Harbhajan Singh and many like him will reveal that all the records and accolades cannot guarantee you a place in the national side. And for all the adulation for cricket in India, it is a known fact that the love has mostly failed to penetrate beneath the national level. Proof of it is the turn-outs for Ranji, Duleep or Deodhar tournaments.
Predictions are best left to idle soothsayers
Several members of the U-19 side have been asked about their ambitions and if they think they will be able to make it to the national side in the time to come. What really is a unique reply to the query is beyond this writer.
All who have been caressed with this question have generally answered saying they just want to keep playing good cricket. Great. Predictions are best left to idle soothsayers as only a level-head and strong performances will assure a chance and ensure permanence.
Impressions of impressionable minds
Here are 17, 18 and 19 year-olds. At an age when most are gearing up for life after school or find themselves creating memories that, to them, are as good as what Bollywood films cut college-life out to be, the players find themselves being mobbed by admirers. For instance, in an interview to NDTV, Unmukt Chand's best friend and brother revealed that girls have begun thronging his Facebook page since India won the World Cup. While he may have been a heart-throb to begin with, admirers can leave a lasting but mistaken impression that life has now become a bed of roses.
The truth is that these boys have surely worked hard to reach where they are today. They have shown potential, played to that potential and have come out on top. Nothing can be more shameful than for this potential to be replaced with pride and a feeling of being invincible. Heck, even Sachin Tendulkar attends trains and has net-sessions at 39.
Lest they are forgotten
India won the U-19 World Cup in 2000 and 2008 previously. Stars were born then as they took birth in Townville. While some continue to shine, most have faded away. The following cricketers performed spectacularly in previous editions of U19 World Cup but how many here can brag that they continue to be a cherished name amongst fans at large. (This is not questioning any cricketer's ability)
Ravneet Ricky: The second-highest scorer in the 2000 U-19 World Cup. Second highest individual score of 108 in the tournament. Is now 31.
Manish Sharma: Scored just nine runs less than Australia's Shane Watson to become the fifth highest scorer in the 2000 edition. Is now 31.
Shalabh Srivastava: Third highest wicket-taker in the 2000 edition. Is now 30 and is suspended.
Niraj Patel: Sixth highest batting average in the 2000 edition. Is now 31.
Fast-forward eight years to another World Cup win:
Tanmay Srivastava: The highest individual scorer in the 2008 edition. Yet to make it to the international side.
Taruwar Kohli: The fifth highest individual scorer in 2008. Yet to make it to the international side.
Iqbal Abdullah: The highest wicket-taker for India in the tournament with 10 scalps. Yet to make it to the national side despite superb performances in the Indian Premier League.
India's previous victories in U19 World Cup came in familiar conditions. The win this time comes on tracks that have tested Indians for long. Special as it may be, it would be quite unfair to say those who played in 2000 and the ones who won in 2008 worked less hard than the current champions. And yet there are the names above who must have harboured ambitions but, for varying reasons, never made it (or not yet) to the national side.
This does not claim to be a thorough assessment. Nor does this seek to be a bible for emerging players to follow. This just spells out what seems amply clear- it is not simple to keep the game of cricket simple but it is absolutely essential. Many veterans including Rahul Dravid have always emphasized on sticking to the basics.
As for the world at large, Elvis Presley had a quote to sum it all up: The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image, put it that way!