CHENNAI: As Prithvi Shaw & Co were celebrating their biggest night of all at Mount Maunganui, their coach Rahul Dravid said something that reflected the environment in which the U-19 team has grown together.
Winning the World Cup is a remarkable achievement, but Dravid — despite the overflow of euphoria — was quick to reflect on the other side. “It’s a memory they will cherish for a long, long time. But hopefully, it won’t be a lasting memory as they have many more great moments and bigger things in future.”
The present found little taking. The win was history, even if it was achieved only moments ago. The boys’ future had taken focus. From the time Dravid has taken over the reins (ahead of the 2016 edition), taking results out of the equation and building a strong foundation for the future has been junior cricket’s roadmap.
In Bengaluru, Venkatesh Prasad, chief of the junior selection committee, too was more focussed on where these players head from here, rather than harping about this triumph. “The important thing for them right now is to be humble. These boys need to have their feet firmly on the ground. That’s top priority,” he told Express.
Having done away with the practice of players being handed more than one stint in the World Cup, selectors have always been on the lookout for new players who can be introduced into the system. The team that played in the U-19 Asia Cup was completely different, indicating that they didn’t adhere to the concept of first-choice players.
“We could have easily added 8-10 players. Such was our pool because when we identified 40-50 players, we knew that they had the talent. Our focus has always been on grooming them for the future. The World Cup is a bonus, but our objective is to see that these players graduate to the next level,” observed Prasad.
“When you talk about the future, it is with in line with modern-day requirements. This is why most of the players we looked at were multi-dimensional. Fielding was given top priority.
To be a good fielder, you need to be supremely fit. If fitness is part of culture at a young age, then they are more disciplined as well.”
Prasad also mentioned the strong age-group tournaments that aid India at this level, and believed that the system will mould them better.
“We want to keep creating a bigger pool. We cannot rest on these laurels. If we are the best, we have to act like it. We have given these players a platform. From here on, they will only evolve. For that, we need to ensure they play on all kinds of surfaces, even in junior cricket. Because when you get acclimatised to different conditions early on, adjustments at senior level will be easy. We are looking at this aspect in the next junior-cricket season, where pitches will be challenging.”
Despite pacers Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Ishan Porel finding mentions in headlines, Prasad was cautious regarding the pace at which they operated.
“Actually, even we were surprised by their pace. But, it is something that has become common in junior cricket, where boys turn up wanting to bowl fast. There is no use just having these talents. We need to plan and help them evolve into better cricketers. Junior cricket is our feeder system, and we can’t afford to take things for granted.
“We didn’t pick this squad with the aim of winning the World Cup. It was more about giving some of these talents a platform. Some of the players who didn’t make it here might play for India before some of these boys. That is where India’s strength lies: the talent pool.”
Edwards c Nagarkoti b Porel 28, Bryant c Abishek b Porel 14, Sangha c Desai b Nagarkoti 13, Merlo c Shiva b Roy 76, Uppal c & b Roy 34, McSweeney c&b Shiva 23, Sutherland c Desai b Shiva 5, Holt run out (Shiva/Desai) 13 Evans b Nagarkoti 1, Hadley c Desai b Mavi 1, Pope (batting) 0. Extras (lb 1, w 7) 8. Total (all out, 47.2 ovs) 216. FoW: 1-32, 2-52, 3-59, 4-134, 5-183, 6-191, 7-212, 8-214, 9- 216, Bowling: Mavi 8.2-1-46-1, Porel 7-1-30-2, Shiva 10-0-36-2, Nagarkoti 9-0-41-2, Abhishek 6-0-30-0, Roy 7-0-32-2.
Shaw b W Sutherland 29, Kalra (batting) 101, Gill b Uppal 31, Desai (batting) 47. Extras: (lb 1, nb 10, w 10) 12. Total: (2 wkts, 38.5 ovs) 220. FoW: 1-71, 2-131. Bowling: Hadley 7-0-37-0, Evans 5-1-30-0, Sutherland 6.5-0-36-1, Edwards 1-0-15-0, Pope 5-0- 42-0, Merlo 4-0-21-0, Uppal 10-0-38-1.