DHAKA. — There were upsets, controversies — including that controversial loss by Zimbabwe at the hands of a team that went on to lift the trophy — in the 2016 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup that ended in Bangladesh on Sunday.
Back to the ‘90s
The 2016 tournament for future stars was a throwback to the 1990s. On what are usually slow and turning tracks in Bangladesh, totals beyond 220 proved very difficult to chase.
The highest total to be chased successfully during the tournament was 265 by Pakistan against England in the fifth-place playoff and it was the only 250-plus successful chase.
Only six more 200-plus targets were successfully hunted down and in this era of big bats and short boundaries that help scores of 300 being registered twice in 50-over matches, the Under-19 World Cup saw only five 300-plus totals — all from teams batting first.
Pitches in Bangladesh were not flat the way they are for international matches, bowlers were throwing challenges throughout the 50 overs and a lot of teams’ fielding standards got better as the tournament progressed.
These factors made sure batsmen had to often rely on solid techniques and not the slogs and heaves you witness every day in T20 leagues.
Whether it was the Mankad, the non-Mankad (Gidron Pope in the semi-final) or the stumping off a fast bowler (Tevin Imlach in the final), many of the Under-19 players showed that cricket at their age is not merely fun and games.
They have shown match awareness of the rules of the game. Someone like Namibia’s Michael van Lingen, who walked after being given not out against South Africa, showed his way was not like everyone else’s.
Even the media interaction of many of the players from Bangladesh, India, England, Pakistan, Namibia and Afghanistan showed that they are in tune with what the off-field world in cricket now demands.
It was not just about the West Indies fast bowlers.
The quicks were helped tremendously by the 9am starts in the tournament and the movement-assisting tracks, especially in Mirpur.
Mirpur did not show its usual slow side, was green for nearly every match it hosted and produced hard pitches for good bounce as well.
The likes of Saqib Mahmood, Alzarri Joseph and Avesh Khan all picked up wickets regularly regardless of the opposition.
Joseph showed in Fatullah too that raw pace and bounce can throw any pitch out of the equation. Avesh, on the other hand, proved that Power-plays are not just about fours and sixes.
Seven of the top 10 wicket-takers of the tournament were pace bowlers and even though legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane made news for a hat-trick and left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar took wickets consistently, fast bowlers were the talk of the town for three weeks.
It was not just the big teams. Namibia’s quick Fritz Coetzee played a vital role in taking his team to the knock-outs and finished as the top wicket-taker of the tournament.
Fiji’s Cakacaka Tikoisuva took the only six-for of the World Cup to finish with a tally of 12 wickets at an average of 18.41.
The World Cup witnessed several umpiring errors. While the ones in non-televised matches went unnoticed, those that were spotted on TV could not evade the attention.
It started with the Mankad moment, which according to some was too close to be given out, during the decisive West Indies-Zimbabwe match and carried on till the knock-outs too.
The way Steve Mangongo and his Zimbabwean team lost their showdown against the Windies will always cast a dark cloud on the tournament.
India captain Ishan Kishan did not hesitate to say in the post-final press conference that he had also been the victim to a wrong umpiring decision.
In a World Cup that is used as a platform to prepare youngsters for the big stage, maybe the ICC should have used the DRS in some capacity, if not completely, to introduce the players to technology from a young age and also reduce howlers in a tournament that featured 16 teams.
A helpful format for the
There has been criticism of the Under-19 World Cup’s current format of two teams qualifying out of the group stage.
But in this edition, Namibia and Nepal made best use of the format by making it through to the quarter-finals at the expense of teams like South Africa, New Zealand and Ireland.
Namibia’s win over South Africa or Nepal’s over New Zealand might look like one-off performances, but those were mostly tough contests which could have gone either way.
Nepal, in particular, showed that they were good enough even for a semi-final berth if not for Bangladesh’s last-gasp effort in the quarter-final. — Cricinfo