ICC U-19 World Cup: The boys will learn from bio-bubble stay, says India coach Kanitkar

India U-19 coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar is fielding a bowling-heavy side with exciting all-rounders such as Maharashtra's Rajvardhan Hangargekar in the World Cup that starts in the Caribbean islands on Friday.

India U-19 coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar.   -  R. Ravindran

 India is the most successful team in the ICC U-19 World Cup with four titles, the latest being in 2018 with Prithvi Shaw as captain and Rahul Dravid as the head coach. Priyam Garg's side lost to Bangladesh in the final in the 2020 edition in South Africa, but this time around, there is a chance to recreate the magical moments of Mount Maunganui in the Caribbean islands.

With Delhi boy Yash Dhull as captain and former international cricketer Hrishikesh Kanitkar as head coach, India will start its campaign against South Africa at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on Saturday. 

The India U-19 team will be led by Delhi boy Yash Dhull.   -  Asian Cricket Council


India has exciting batters in Dhull, Angkrish Raghuvanshi and Harnoor Singh who smashed an unbeaten ton against Australia in the warm-up. Even Dhull hit the ground running by scoring two fifties in two outings. "The primary quality for a player is to gain the respect of his players. Yash has that, and he is fluid in situations. He is able to take tough calls on the field. Harnoor is getting big scores. If he gets going, he makes it count," Kanitkar told reporters on Thursday.

There is a lot of attention on Maharashtra fast-bowler Rajvardhan Hangargekar, who is known as the Marathwada Express for clocking over 140 kph. Kanitkar revealed the youngster is a decent batter too, and that it is a good sign that all-rounders are emerging from the grassroots. "It augurs well for the future. I think the talent is there, it is about grooming and handling them well. Rajvardhan is a really exciting prospect and bowls at a fair clip. He has a good yorker and a bouncer, and he is not a bad batsman. You will find that in the tournament. He is keen to do well for the team. These are good signs."

Left-arm seamer Ravi Kumar from Bengal has turned heads by returning 4/34 against the Aussies in the warm-up. "Ravi is improving and he is interacting with Sairaj Bahutule [bowling coach] and getting better."

Early bio-bubble lessons

There is one difference between the upcoming edition of the colts' World Cup and the earlier ones - the presence of a bio-secure bubble to avoid the contagious COVID-19 virus.

The pandemic-induced bio-bubble hotels, quarantine and isolation on getting the infection have hampered quite a few senior professionals on the road. It will be tougher for the teenagers who are starting out, but head coach Kanitkar feels the bio-bubble stay is part of the growing process. "It is a challenge but we need to realise that it is the norm now, for the past couple of years, and some more time going into the future. It is better to get used to it, get your head around the fact that this is the reality now. You have to find things to do by staying in the bio-bubble.  

"It is a good thing because this is here to stay. The boys will learn from this. After this World Cup when they need to be in bubbles with other teams, they will be up for it," he said.

Dhull: Wickets helpful for batting

Right-handed batter Dhull, who looks up to Virat Kohli, is banking on good starts. "Virat bhaiyya's attitude is what I try to carry, the attacking game.

"We are getting good starts, so it is getting easier for the middle-order. It is more of a batting wicket here. There will be pressure anyway but if we enjoy the pressure, then we will enjoy our game more," he said.

Dhull was recently at the National Cricket Academy where he interacted with legendary batsman VVS Laxman, who is the Director of Cricket, and India limited-overs captain Rohit Sharma. 

Team bonding

Kanitkar is a confident coach after a triumphant ACC U-19 Asia Cup, and he believes the momentum will help in the long run. "Asia cup was important because we had not played together as a team. It was important for team-building. Even when you are not training, you have to try and spend time with them whenever you are traveling. You have to build good relationships with players to develop trust. If that can be done, the rest is much easier. We have been able to do that and credit goes to the players because they have responded. This group has been keen to interact and share what they feel," he said.

The tournament will feature 16 teams in four groups. India is placed in Group B alongside South Africa, Ireland and Uganda.

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