India in good stead for U-19 World Cup with Asia Cup triumph, feels coach Kanitkar

Kanitkar, who headed the India U-19 team that won the Asia Cup on Friday, said emphasis has been put on building solid techniques for players to benefit their careers in the long run.

After clinching the Asia Cup, the Indian team coached by Hrishikesh Kanitkar will leave for Guyana on Sunday night and will soon start its training sessions for the ICC event. (FILE PHOTO)   -  R. Ravindran

In his long cricketing career, Hrishikesh Kanitkar has been a mentor to many young players. From helping them out in difficult situations to making them understand the basics of the game - Kanitkar has done it all.

And in his stint as a coach, the former India international has worked with several state teams, IPL franchises and India A outfits, producing several young talents.

As the coach of the India U-19 team, too, Kanitkar has enjoyed success as the side defeated Sri Lanka on Friday to clinch its eighth U-19 Asia Cup title. With the U-19 World Cup set to begin in the West Indies later this month, Kanitkar believes that this experience will help the Yash Dhull-led side.

READ: Cricket 2022 calendar: Complete schedule, match timings, dates, venues

After clinching the Asia Cup, the Indian team will leave for Guyana on Sunday night and will soon start its training sessions for the ICC event. In a chat with Sportstar on Saturday, Kanitkar admitted that the Asia Cup has indeed been a learning experience for the colts.

With the U-19 World Cup just a few weeks away, how do you see the Asia Cup win?

It was a very important tournament for us because the team came together properly for the first time for the U-19 Asia Cup, during the camp. We played the first match of the tournament against UAE, so everything was untested. The players did not have enough cricket behind them. As a team, they had not played a game together, so reaching the final and winning the tournament is good progress and we are moving in the right direction. We need to keep our foot on the paddle and make sure that we try and improve every day in all the departments. That is very important for us.

As the coach, what was your advice for the players during the camp in Bengaluru and also during the course of the tournament?

The advice was mostly to do with laying solid foundations for themselves so that they can grow as players. If they have strong basics, it will last them for their whole career and not just the U-19 World Cup. Whatever we tell them is towards that goal, so that they can learn and improve. These are building blocks, so we also spend a lot of time explaining to them about the partnerships while batting and also the technical stuff. All these are done to make them better cricketers.

ALSO READ: BCCI postpones Vijay Merchant Trophy due to COVID-19 for second successive year

The middle-order looked inconsistent during the Asia Cup. With the World Cup nearing, is that a concern?

It is an ongoing process. One common thing for all the U-19 teams across the world is the fact that they lack experience. They have not played as many matches as their senior counterparts. So, without that experience, mistakes are bound to happen. Every cricketer, including me, have made those errors and have learned from those errors. The nature of the game is such that here batters get one chance and once he gets out, that’s it for him. So, that’s the reason you see wickets going in bunches in U-19 cricket. As they play more games, they will learn how to tackle those situations and how not to lose wickets quickly. They will also learn how to plan the innings and also how to handle things if wickets tumble quickly.

ALSO READ: Raj Angad and Harnoor, carrying the family legacy forward in style

If you look at the India A teams, the players are more seasoned and have played nearly 100 games, so they have that experience. These guys will also learn with time and improve. This is the case with most U-19 teams.

The next few weeks are going to be quite challenging. With bio-bubbles, different time zones and conditions in the West Indies, things could be tough for the players. As the coach, how to plan to make them feel comfortable and motivated?

The time zone will be different and also the bubble is in place, so as individuals, the players need to manage their time and get into the zone. The quicker you do that, the faster you acclimatise. With the U-19 team, the best part is that the players enjoy each other's company and have a camaraderie. You don’t really need events or special things to bring them together. They are 17, 18 years of age and they love to spend time with each other, watching television, and listening to music. So, team bonding won’t be a challenge.

All the players are keen to learn and do well at this stage. They have been preparing for this for long and have seen the previous batches of U-19 players, who had done well in the World Cup and eventually went on to play for India. They are motivated, so we don’t need to push them. They themselves are aware of their goals and are extremely motivated.

READ: January Sports Calendar: Men's U-19 World Cup, AFCON, Australian Open and more

What is that one learning from the Asia Cup that you would want to rectify during the World Cup?

We have a lot of feedback now about how we should react to a certain situation and what we do in different situations. We have got matches under our belt and we will try to improve as we progress. The key aspect will be about how we handle adversities and that’s what will define the team. It is important to bounce back when the chips are down, so that’s going to be the main challenge. We will focus on these areas in our training sessions. A lot will also depend on how we fight out things mentally and handle situations.  

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :