A number of players who are set to feature in the 2018 edition of the Under-19 World Cup have already made a place for themselves in the public consciousness courtesy their on-field exploits. Some have done it at first-class level and have even been picked to play in T20 leagues across the world. Others have been prolific at the age-group levels and now have an opportunity to make the next step up the ladder. ESPNcricinfo picks five players to keep an eye on during the tournament, which begins in New Zealand on January 13:
Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan)
With an action that has already elicited comparisons with Mitchell Starc, Shaheen burst onto the scene with figures of 8 for 39 for Khan Research Laboratories against Rawalpindi in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the best figures by a Pakistani cricketer on first-class debut. Shaheen, who was born after the turn of the millennium, isn't the first from his family to don Pakistan colours. His older brother Riaz, who played one Test for Pakistan in November 2004, was part of a successful Under-19 World Cup winning team in 2004.
Shaheen was first selected for the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in an Under-16 talent hunt programme, and became the leading wicket-taker for his region with 12 wickets at 16.17 in 2015. He impressed the national selectors in a high-performance camp for players who had impressed at the Under-16 level. His pace and fitness won him a ticket for an Under-16 tour to Australia. Last season, he signed a two-year deal with the BPL franchise Dhaka Dynamites.
Shubman Gill (India)
While all eyes will be on Prithvi Shaw, India's captain, teams would do well to make note of Gill's penchant for big runs. Gill, who generally bats No. 3, has been a constant feature in Rahul Dravid's plans during the build up to the 2018 tournament. Along the way, he's also been picked for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. If he hadn't injured himself at training ahead of the Ranji Troohy season, he would have also made his India A debut when New Zealand A toured the country in August-September.
Gill has constantly played at an age-group level above his. In 2014, he smacked 351 in Punjab's Inter-District Under-16 tournament, and shared a record opening stand of 587 with Nirmal Singh. On his Under-16 state debut for Punjab, he made an unbeaten double-century in the Vijay Merchant Trophy. Later that year, he would go on to share the stage with his idol Virat Kohli while receiving a BCCI award for the best junior cricketer, which he won for two successive years: 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Gill's real test with the India Under-19s came earlier this year, when he amassed 351 runs in four innings to win Man of the Series during the Youth ODI series at home against England. In the reciprocal tour, his first in English conditions, he top-scored once more, with 278 runs in four innings. India swept both series.
Mujeeb Zadran (Afghanistan)
He can bowl traditional offspin and mix it up with legspin and ripping googlies to make what Afghanistan coach Andy Moles terms a "complete package". At just 16, Mujeeb wants to follow in the footsteps of Rashid Khan, his senior by two years. There's plenty of hype surrounding him too, supported by the weight of his performances.
Mujeeb was part of an Afghanistan Under-19 side that clinically dismantled the Bangladesh Under-19s 3-1 in their own den. Bowling predominantly with the new ball, Mujeeb, who picked up eight wickets in the first three games of that series, nearly doubled his tally during the course of a nine-over spell in which he took 7 for 19, the joint second-best best bowling figures in all Youth ODIs. This performance was all the more spectacular as it helped Afghanistan defend 133. Bangladesh, reduced to 11 for 6 at one stage in that game, lost the series 3-1.
Mujeeb went on to pick up 17 wickets in the series, the most by a bowler in a bilateral Youth ODI series. These performances against their own country perhaps coaxed Comilla Victorians to sign him as a replacement player during the 2017-18 edition of the Bangladesh Premier League.
Mujeeb continued to enhance his reputation on the global stage by starring in Afghanistan's historic triumph at the Under-19 Asia Cup, where they beat Pakistan in the final with him claiming a five-wicket haul. The title-clinching performance was preceded by a six-for in the semi-final against Nepal. He finished the tournament with 20 wickets in five games.
Jason Sangha (Australia)
Sangha first caught the eye after being picked for the School Sports Australia Carnival in Darwin in 2016. His inclusion came following a meteoric rise through the summer of 2015, when he started the season in the New South Wales Under-15 Schoolboys team before being picked in the Cricket Australia Invitation sides for both the Under-17s, where he made four half-centuries in five games, and the Under-19 National Championships. Impressive performances here made him the the youngest cricketer in Australia's history to be handed a rookie contract with New South Wales, in 2016-17.
His age-group performances led to a BBL contract for the sixth edition with the Sydney Thunder. The franchise had earlier signed Arjun Nair through their youth system. Sangha was earmarked for an Under-19 debut ahead of their 2016 World Cup, but couldn't play since Australia withdrew from the tournament in Bangladesh citing security fears.
In November 2017, in what was a sign of things to come, Sangha, aged 18 years and 71 days, defied England's Test attack in a pre-Ashes toue game to become the youngest first-class centurion in Australia since Ricky Ponting (18 years and 39 days) made one for Tasmania against New South Wales in 1992-93. He also became the second-youngest man in history, after Sachin Tendulkar, to record a first-class century against England.
Afif Hossain (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh's Under-19 coach Damian Wright has gone as far as labelling him "possibly the most talented left-hand batsman at the tournament." Primarily an opening batsman, Afif has all the shots in the book, and the confidence with which he approaches his batting has earned him plaudits. However, in November, it was with his bowling and electric fielding that he shot into the limelight.
A virtual unknown in the T20 circles up until then, Afif, who had trained with Rajshshi Kings, announced himself on T20 debut by claiming 5 for 21 with his offspin, including the big scalp of Chris Gayle. At 17 years and 72 days, he became the youngest bowler to pick up a five-for in T20s. Afif is a student of the BKSP, Bangladesh's premier sports institute, which has produced a number of international cricketers including Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan.