CHENNAI: Process is an overused word in cricket. But as India’s U-19 side marched into a third successive World Cup final, courtesy a massive 10-wicket win over Pakistan in the semifinal in Potchefstroom, one couldn’t stop attributing their success to the process they have been following. They are just one victory away from lifting a record fifth title and even if they don’t win, the likes of Yashasvi Jaiswal, Kartik Tyagi, Ravi Bishnoi, Sushant Mishra have ensured that their journey will be followed keenly in the coming years.
Winners in 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018 and finalists in 2006 and 2016, there is a reason why India keep churning out sides that are so consistent at this level. Even more so after the junior side was handed over to Rahul Dravid before the 2016 edition. Their planning starts and ends with each edition of the World Cup. They spend the first couple of years scouting talent. They pick around 45, who feature in domestic tournaments and other exposure trips before the talent pool is pruned to around 20. They are then sent on overseas tours apart from featuring in bilateral series at home.
Take this team for instance. Since Prithvi Shaw’s side won the previous edition in 2018, the current bunch has featured in 36 matches, winning 27 and losing only eight. One was washed out. “It is fully down to the process and the system we follow,” India U-19 head coach Paras Mhambrey told Express from Potchefstroom, after the win over Pakistan. “Rahul started this and until a year-and-a-half back, he was handling it. Since then, we have only taken it forward. It comes down to the basics: scouting, nurturing and developing. This is what we have been following over the last six years and after every edition, whether we win or don’t, we emphasise on the work lying ahead of them,” said Mhambrey.
While this was India’s 11th successive win in the U-19 World Cup, Mhambrey attributes this domination to exposure. Before the tournament, India played South Africa in a bilateral series, where players were rotated so that they are game ready. By the time the tournament began, they were acclimatised to the conditions, as highlighted by Jaiswal after his unbeaten 105 on Tuesday. The opener has shelved aggression and preferred to play the waiting game on wickets where bowlers have a chance. “We keep telling the boys that forget the title.
That isn’t why we are here. At this level, our focus is on development. Success at this level doesn’t mean you graduate to the next level. So the boys know what their task is. That is the culture we have built, with emphasis on how to take their talent to the next level. It isn’t easy for players to buy those ideas because ultimately they want to win, but when we put it across to them, they grasp it,” said Mhambrey, who has Hrishikesh Kanitkar (batting) and Abhay Sharma (fielding) as support staff.
So far in this tournament, they have ticked all the boxes. Their bowling is amongst the most potent, fielding has stood out and batsmen have delivered when needed. They haven’t shown weaknesses that may come in their way of lifting the title on Sunday. But Mhambrey is guarded. “Like I said, winning doesn’t matter. That is a bonus for the hardwork we have done over the last four years. Our biggest win will be if these players make a name for themselves at the international level. That will be our biggest trophy.”
Pakistan U-19 172 in 43.1 ovs (Nazir 62, Haider 56; Mishra 3/28, Bishnoi 2/46, Tyagi 2/32) lost to India U-19 176/0 in 35.2 ovs (Jaiswal 105 n.o, Saxena 59 n.o).