Mirpur: A formidable India U-19 team coached by the legendary Rahul Dravid start as favourites against minnows Ireland in their opening Group D league match of the ICC U-19 World Cup here today.
Being three-time champs, the tournament has always helped India unearth raw talent, who have gone on to become big stars. Whether it is Yuvraj Singh or India's current No 1 batsman Virat Kohli, India have tapped quality talent from the tournament.
It's no different this time as the likes of Ishan Kishan, Risabh Pant and Sarfaraz Khan showcase their talent under coach Dravid.
The absence of Australia, who pulled out citing security reasons, increase India's chances manifold. The strength of the Indian team can be gauged by the fact that five of their players have already played first-class cricket and one has played T20 cricket for a state team.
Among the lot, the stockily built Sarfaraz Khan has done well for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL. This is Sarfaraz's second U-19 World Cup and he has played Ranji Trophy for Uttar Pradesh.
Left-handed opener Risabh Pant will be closely watched by IPL teams before going into the Feb 6 auction. Risabh, who has played for Delhi, has done well and his performance will be vital to the team's chances here.
Skipper Ishan Kishan has also played first-class cricket for Jharkhand and recently shared the dressing room with India limited-overs skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Meanwhile, Australia's replacement team Ireland do not have any cricketer, who has played senior level cricket. Their youngest member of 15-year-old Indian origin leg-spinner Varun Chopra.