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Indian colts' performance in Australia showcases winds of change that have been blowing in cricket
Till August 26, India's show at the Under-19 World Cup had a predictable pattern. Closer home, the boys in blue would be bullies, but they would turn timid on cricket fields in distant lands. In their four World Cup outings in Asia, the Indian colts were champions twice and runners-up once. But when the "Junior Cup" left the continent, they never reached the finals. While the turn of the century had seen the seniors improving their away record by securing Test wins on hard and bouncy tracks in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the cricket-crazy nation's new-found proficiency to handle unfamiliar conditions wasn't trickling down.
But the Class of 2012's triumph in Townsville, Australia, has shattered several myths about the poor travellers of the past. What had looked like another forgettable trip — they succumbed to the West Indies pacers in their opening game — turned out to be pleasantly different. The final saw batsmen like skipper Unmukt Chand, Baba Aparajith and Smit Patel bat like they were in their backyard, while pacers Sandeep Sharma and Ravikant Singh showed that swing can be as deadly as speed on lively tracks. Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh showed that with flight, loop and guile for company, one can be at home anywhere in the world.
The coming-of-age show acknowledges the winds of change in Indian cricket. BCCI-organised study tours abroad and frequent competitive games against tough rivals at home mean the juniors aren't overwhelmed overseas. Chand & Co didn't let their shoulders droop when they were all out for 166 in the first game or when it was 97/4 in the final. Teams of the past have flinched, but not this feisty bunch. They saw to it that August 26, 2012 was India's Graduation Day in the little league.