CHENNAI: Local lad AG Pradeep’s unbeaten century enabled Andhra to defeat Goa by three runs in a thrilling match of the Vijay Hazare tournament at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Wednesday. Few know Pradeep, considered a pillar of Andhra’s batting, began his career along with the likes of Rohit Sharma and Piyush Chawla, and was part of the India U-19 team that played a youth ODI series against their Australian counterparts in 2005, which the Indians won 4-1. Interestingly, that Oz squad comprised the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja and Moises Henriques.
“It was a great start to my career, and was nice to be part of that squad. We won the series convincingly against Australia, which was a good learning experience,” recollected Pradeeep.
A season earlier in 2004, he made his first-class debut under current chairman of the national selection committee, MSK Prasad, and with almost 3000 runs, is one of Andhra's top run-getters. But for some strange reason, apart from Rohit, no batsman from that 2005 series could make the senior India squad.
“There’s a huge difference between the U-19 and senior levels. You have to score consistently, and sustain yourself for a long period of time to make the grade,” noted Pradeep.
So how did Rohit manage to make it? “He has was always been aggressive. He has also improved technique, game and fitness over the years to be the player he is today. So is the case with Piyush,” noted the 30-year-old.
Andhra captain Hanuma Vihari believes that competition is tough, and success at U-19 level is no guarantee to an India berth. From his group, only Sandeep Sharma has played for India, that too in T20Is. “A good show at the U-19 level is no step to enter the national team. The gap is huge, even though many of that squad got to play for India A. We managed to play the IPL without any problem, but if we get an opportunity to play against a visiting international team, our chances to get noticed will be bright,” opined the member of India’s victorious U-19 World Cup-winning squad.
At the moment, both Pradeep and Vihari are keen to see that their team performs to potential in the remaining rounds and qualifies for the knockout stage. With many TNPL team owners keen to press for the inclusion of outstation players in this year’s edition, Andhra players could hog the limelight once again.