Paras Mhambrey: U-19 World Cup only part of larger picture

India’s head coach stresses on player development ahead of team’s departure for South Africa.

India captain Priyam Garg (left) and coach Paras Mhambrey at a press conference in Bengaluru on Sunday.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

The India U-19 side is leaving nothing to chance ahead of next month’s ICC U-19 World Cup in South Africa. The team is departing almost a full month in advance, and will first play a three-match one-day series against the host before taking part in a quadrangular tournament also featuring New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

India’s colts arrived in the city here eight days ago, and have combined training at the National Cricket Academy and the KSCA’s Alur facility with a short team-bonding trip to the jungle in Nagarhole.

‘Balanced side’

“It’s good that we are getting at least 10 games prior to the World Cup,” said head coach Paras Mhambrey at the team’s pre-departure press conference at the NCA here on Sunday. “They give us an opportunity to experiment and also arrive at the right combination. This is a very balanced side, with seaming all-rounders, spinning all-rounders, quality fast bowlers and batsmen as well. We have got the right balance going into the tournament.”

During the nets sessions in Alur, the team trained on bowler-friendly pitches to recreate South African conditions. That had helped, felt Mhambrey, as had the little excursion to the forests. “That bonding camp was like an ice-breaker,” he said.

‘No pressure’

Priyam Garg, India’s captain, is already a fairly experienced cricketer, having played 12 first-class games in which he averages over 66. But leading a nation that is used to dominating at U-19 level, having won the World Cup four times already, could be a whole different challenge.

“There is no pressure on us,” said Garg. “I see it more like a good opportunity to lead my country in such a big tournament. We have played many tournaments together. So that’s an advantage. At the World Cup, I will work on taking the team all the way to the finish.”

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Had he spoken to Virat Kohli or Prithvi Shaw, two former India U-19 captains, Garg was asked. “I haven’t spoken to Virat sir but I have spoken to Prithvi Shaw on their planning and their process when they played the World Cup,” the Uttar Pradesh batsman said. “He told me that team-bonding matters a lot and it’s important to know the strengths of your players. He spoke of how to keep the team together and get the best out of each player.”

Mhambrey was part of the coaching staff when India won the previous edition of the World Cup, in 2018. The process, he stated, was what mattered. “You can’t judge a tournament just by [the result],” he said. “Yes, it is good to win, but you have to look at the larger picture, the development of the player. This is a stepping stone, one of the tournaments the player will play going ahead in his career. There is first-class cricket after that, then comes representing India at the highest level. In that process, this is a step forward.”