Virat Kohli and 21 others

Updated: 10 August 2012 11:52 IST

Broken dreams far outnumber those that make it to reality when it comes to transitioning from Under-19 to international cricket, says Dileep Premachandran.

Virat Kohli and 21 others

The Manchester Evening News called Colin Shindler's George Best and 21 Others 'Warm, witty and sometimes unbearably sad'. The narrative is based on an FA Youth Cup semifinal that more than 50,000 people watched in the spring of 1964, and what transpired afterwards. As the back cover says: "It was a time of great hope and excitement: a new era was to be ushered in, with the virtues of youth personified in the Beatles and Harold Wilson - and in the teams that played. But what happened next? For some, like George Best, it was the start of a golden era of success; but for others it was the highlight of a career that never happened."

We'll catch plenty of glimpses of cricket's future over the next three weeks, as Townsville hosts the Under-19 World Cup. Alongside the future stars, however, will be those for whom the tournament serves as a last hurrah. Most of the boys that take part will never make the big leagues. For every Chris Gayle or Virat Kohli, there'll be 10 others that spend the rest of their lives telling people how they once rubbed shoulders with the game's elite.

So many barriers separate Under-19 cricket from the big stage. In some cases, players lack the nous or the skill to make the transition. The flaws that can be papered over in age-group cricket become yawning chasms that can't be bridged.

Others find that growing bodies can't cope with the additional workload. Stress fractures or muscle tears that don't heal properly have ruined many a career. Then there are those that the senior selectors ignore for inexplicable reasons. For every Irfan Pathan who was promoted to the national side after a strong Under-19 showing, there are many more that steadily lost confidence while waiting for calls that never came.

You only need to look at the 2008 final to see how fleeting Under-19 fame can be. South Africa's Wayne Parnell was the star of the tournament, taking 18 wickets and scoring runs in what was a low-scoring tournament. Within the year, he had made his one-day debut. In January 2010, he played his first Test. A month later, at Eden Gardens, he played what remains his last.

Kohli, his counterpart in that final, is well on the way to becoming a one-day legend. In recent times, Parnell has made headlines off the field, involved in a Mumbai drugs bust that may have very negative implications for his future. At 23, instead of providing a left-arm option for an already potent Test attack, he's in danger of becoming a cautionary tale.

On the Indian side, Saurabh Tiwary and Ravindra Jadeja have both played for the national team, without becoming indispensable as Kohli has. Jadeja remains on the fringes, but Tiwary is now so far behind the queue that he's not even mentioned as a contender.

Others didn't even get that far. Tanmay Srivastava, top scorer in the tournament, and Taruwar Kohli, who made three half-centuries, haven't made eye-catching progress in the first-class arena and are unable to nail down Indian Premier League places either.

Ajitesh Argal, whose miserly spell set India on the way to victory in the final, hasn't played a first-class game in more than 18 months. His last List A game was more than two years ago. Siddharth Kaul played the last of three first-class matches in November 2008. Pradeep Sangwan shone in the second season of the IPL, but has since been bypassed by Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and others.

There are many who reckon that Unmukt Chand could follow in Kohli's footsteps. But while he's impressed in recent Under-19 outings and made a promising start to his first-class career, you only need to look at those that have gone before to see how difficult the glory road is to traverse.

Mohammad Kaif, Under-19 captain when the title was won in 2000, hasn't worn the India cap in more than half a decade. Ambati Rayudu, who led the team in 2004, has never played for the senior side. Ravikant Shukla, captain in 2006, is no more than a domestic-cricket journeyman.

Indian cricket, which is in a transitional phase, will hope that Chand and at least a couple of his teammates go on to achieve what Kohli has. Regardless of that though, the broken dreams will far outnumber those that become reality.

Topics : Virat Kohli Cricket Irfan Pathan Ravindra Jadeja
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