New Delhi: The semifinalists of the ongoing ICC U19 World Cup 2024 have been decided, with five-time champions India set to take on South Africa on February 6 and Pakistan set to take on Australia on February 8.
During this tournament, just like every other U19 World Cup, plenty of gems have been unearthed. Every team is in search of superstars who can take the baton from the likes of Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root, Jasprit Bumrah, Babar Azam, etc. and take cricket in their country forward and upwards. As the tournament proceeds to the semifinals, it is safe to say that most of these teams have succeeded in finding the superstars for the future.
Here are some stars who have been the best performers in the tournament: -Musheer Khan (India)
The Indian all-rounder is the brother of Mumbai domestic batting sensation Sarfaraz Khan. While his brother is busy gathering headlines for his massive hundreds and much-awaited entry into the Indian Test set-up, Musheer has also showcased his talent with both bat and ball.
Musheer is the leading run-scorer, scoring 334 runs in five matches at an average of 83.50, with two centuries and a fifty. His best score is 131. He has also taken four wickets at an average of 24.25. With a maximum of two matches left, including the final, Musheer can surpass Indian great Shikhar Dhawan’s (505 runs in 2004) tally to become the Indian with the highest runs in a single U19 World Cup.
-Ubaid Shah (Pakistan)
India’s arch-rivals are no different. Ubaid, the younger brother of Pakistan senior team pace sensation Naseem Shah has delivered performances that could help him play alongside his sibling really soon. He has taken 17 wickets in five matches at an average of 10.52, with a five-wicket haul (5/44) to his name against Bangladesh, which helped them seal their semifinal spot. He is the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far.
The right-arm pacer can generate some heavy movement with the new ball and is a fine death bowler, which makes him a promising prospect. He is just three wickets away from outdoing Riaz Afridi (2004) and Mushtaq Ahmed (1988) (19 wickets each) and becoming the Pakistani player with the most wickets in a single U19 WC.
-Kwena Maphaka (South Africa)
South Africa has produced some fine fast-bowling talent as of late including Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen. There is a 17-year-old who could join these stars soon. His name is Kwena Maphaka, the leading wicket-taker in the tournament. He has taken 18 scalps at an average of 9.55, with a trio of five-wicket hauls. His best bowling figures in this tournament are 6/21.
He is just five wickets away from breaking Enamul Haque Junior’s record of 22 for the most wickets in a single U19 WC and just four away from overtaking Zimbabwe’s Wessly Madhevere’s 28 wickets in total at U19 WC. The Proteas star also has seven wickets in the 2022 U19 WC, taking his tally to 25 wickets.
Maphanka has been dominant on the home soil, especially with his movement with the new ball, which goes both ways. His 6/21 against Sri Lanka and 5/38 against West Indies are two of the best spells of the tournament.
-Hugh Weibgen (Australia)
The 19-year-old has produced some quality knocks when it mattered the most. During a crucial Super Six clash against England, he smashed a superb 120 in 126 balls, which helped Australia score a match-winning total of 266 runs. He has scored 252 runs in five matches at an average of 63.00, with a century and a fifty. He is the fifth-highest run-scorer in the tournament.
The right-hander also smashed a valuable 39* during a tense run-chase against Namibia during the league stage and will be instrumental to Australia’s chances of getting its fourth title. -Steve Stolk (South Africa)
There are seven players who have outperformed Stolk in terms of runs, but nobody comes to his impressive strike rate of 148.61. To go along with it are 214 runs at an average of 42.80 in five matches, with two half-centuries. His best score is 86. This combination of high-voltage batting and consistency is not something seen regularly.
The SR of Stolk is so impressive that the previous best strike rates of Kieran Powell (124.01 in 2008) of the West Indies, New Zealand’s Finn Allen (119.01 in 2018) and India’s Shubman Gill (112.38 in 2018) in U19 WCs pale in comparison.
The hard-hitting opener grabbed eye balls with an explosive 86 in just 37 balls against Scotland, which had seven fours and eight sixes. South Africa is a land famous for world-class white-ball batters and Stolk could follow their footsteps.