DUBAI // With Ray Jennings in charge and a good win over India last year, South Africa Under-19s would have their tails up in warm-up game.
For Vijay Zol, Ankush Bains, Deepak Hooda, Kuldeep Yadav, Ricky Bhui and Chama Milind, Wednesday could be one of the biggest days of their professional lives.
They are all part of the Indian Premier League 2014 auctions, scheduled over the next two days in Bangalore. But, much as they would be curious to know how much interest they generate among the franchises, it would be difficult for them to keep a tab on the proceedings with more pressing matters keeping them occupied.
After a five-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka Under-19s in their first warm-up game, India Under-19s have one more chance to set things right when they meet South Africa Under-19s in their second and last practice game at the ICC Academy 1 ground in Dubai before the ICC Under-19 World Cup starts from February 14.
More than the loss, the manner of it was an eye opener for India, the defending champions and one of the most consistent sides at this level. Barring Yadav, the Chinaman bowler, whose three-wicket burst took the game into the penultimate over, India’s overall rustiness was exposed.
While Zol and Sanju Samson – India’s two main batsmen – could not get going, the opportunity was there for the others to step up and take responsibility.
However, that was not to be as Bains and Akhil Herwadkar, the openers, failed to convert starts into meaningful scores and Shreyas Iyer, who gave a glimpse of his ability in a composed knock, buckled under pressure.
The fielding was below par too. At least two easy catches were dropped and most of the players were sloppy with their ground fielding, failing to take advantage of the run out chances.
Against South Africa, India’s primary aim would be to bat out their full quota of 50 overs – which they failed to do against Sri Lanka – if they get to bat first. If India field first, then it would give Milind and Avesh Khan – both of whom bowled well with the new ball against Sri Lanka without much luck – a chance to make the best use of the early morning conditions and walk into the tournament proper high on confidence.
South Africa, who had an easy victory against Namibia in their first warm-up match, have in their ranks Ray Jennings, the coach, who knows a thing or two about Zol, having worked with him during his stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore. If that alone does not factor for much, then South Africa’s performance in the Quadrangular Series in Visakhapatnam last year, where they finished second, gives them an idea of what to expect from their opponents.
South Africa are the only team to have beaten India in the recent past, which they did when they held their nerves in a ten-run win in one of the league matches of the Quadrangular Series. The victory was built on the back of half-centuries from Clyde Fortuin and Yaseen Valli, before Kagiso Rabada, the right-arm paceman, picked up three wickets and Zol’s 103 went in vain.
More than the result though, it will be about both teams noting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, what with Jennings having expressed his desire to play India in the final of the tournament.
India: Vijay Zol (capt), Ankush Bains (wk), Ricky Bhui, Sanju Samson, Aamir Gani, Akhil Herwadkar, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Karan Kalia, Avesh Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Sarfaraz Khan, Monu Kumar, Chama Milind, Atit Seth.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (capt, wk), Bradley Bopp, Corbin Bosch, Dirk Bruwer, Kirwin Christoffles, Bradley Dial, Justin Dill, Clyde Fortuin, Sibonelo Makhanya, Greg Oldfield, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Ngazibini Sigwili, Jason Smith, Yaseen Valli.
Sidhanta Patnaik is a writer for WisdenIndia.