After the greats retire, Colts call the shots

Pujara scores ton in test; Under-19 team enters final

For Indian cricket, it was a reassuring Thursday, the first day of a new Test cricket season for the country.

Weakened by the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman Team India went into the season-opening Test against New Zealand without the assurance of the two batting greats’ presence in the line-up.

But at the end of the first day’s play, youngsters Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli held out a great promise for the future.

Around the same time Pujara’s innings grew from strength to strength, eventually reaching an unbeaten maiden Test century, teenagers from the country were playing some exciting cricket away in Australia in the ICC Under-19 World Cup – the Indian colts registered another thrilling victory, this time against New Zealand, to enter the final.

The colts played brilliantly for the second time in a row – the first one was against Pakistan earlier in the week – to win another close game. If they go on to win the Cup, it would be India’s third win in four appearances in the final since the inception of the tournament twelve years ago.

Pujara and Kohli have risen to the Test level through successful appearances in U-19 World Cup.

For that matter, even players like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif shot into prominence after their U-19 World Cup exploits. Like Dravid and Laxman when they made their Test debut, Pujara and Kohli are both young. Pujara is 24, while Kohli, 23, is already an established member of Team India.

Pujara was the man-of-the-series in the 2006 U-19 World Cup.

Heartbreaking memory

His personal glory was, however, tempered by the heart-breaking loss India suffered at the hands of Pakistan in a low-scoring final in Sri Lanka.

Kohli was the skipper of the winning team in the 2008 U-19 World Cup in Malaysia.

After a highly satisfying day, this time with the senior side, Pujara, who plays for the
Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, while wishing the colts good luck, hoped the side would cross the line against Australia in the final on Sunday in Townsville.

With Pujara and Kohli helping Team India to post over 300 runs in the first innings on day one at Hyderabad, it did not matter much that master-blaster Sachin Tendulkar, the first-ever Parliament member to play Test cricket for the country, failed to deliver a good result with the bat.

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