Thanks to the biennial ICC Under-19 World Cup, the junior cricket circuit gets into the limelight every alternate year. A couple of international series are organised for India Under-19 team before the BCCI selects the squad for the marquee event.While the BCCI’s thorough selection procedure, which attempts to spot talent from all parts of the country through a well-organised competition structure even in junior cricket should be applauded, over the last decade too much emphasis seems to be given on the World Cup season.
As a result, the BCCI has lacked in organising exposure trips for Under-19 cricketers in a non-World Cup year. It is underlined by the fact that the first international Under-19 game India played after their quarter-final exit from the 2014 World Cup was in November 2015, less than three months before the next edition of the ICC event.
When The Hindu pointed it out to Rahul Dravid, the India Under-19 and India A coach during the team’s pre-departure interaction in Mumbai on Sunday, the former India captain stressed on the need to organise Under-19 series every year.
“It’s actually a very good point. Because the World Cup is every two years, there is one batch that’s going to miss out on all the exposure. That’s something we need to focus on,” Dravid said.
“Because the World Cup wasn’t there, there was a bunch of guys last year who did not get to play any exposure. There should be a lot more Under-19 tours, a lot more under-19 cricket. That’s something we need to think about. Like you rightly said, it has to be done every year so that one batch doesn’t miss out on exposure trips.”
In 2013, Prof Ratnakar Shetty, general manager, game development, had initiated an off-season camp for talented “above-19” cricketers who were slightly older than to feature in the Under-19 World Cup. Twenty such cricketers had honed their skills at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru under the watchful eyes of former Test cricketers Sanjay Bangar, Deep Dasgupta and Sunil Joshi.
It was in this camp that Bangar spotted Akshar Patel and the left-arm spinner went on to not just emerge as the Most Promising Player of IPL’s 2014 edition but has also made a mark in international cricket.
Dravid added that the focus on India Under-19s shouldn’t be limited to only the 15 who make the cut for the World Cup. “It shouldn’t just be about picking the best 15. If you have two or thee tours every year, you can actually give opportunities to everyone in the 30,” Dravid said.
“Like I always keep telling these guys, you never know which one of these 30 will end up playing for India. It’s the best 15 according to the selectors at this point of time. Whether it’s going to be the best 15 in two years’ time, history tells you not necessarily. If there’s someone who has missed out here but actually improves his game in the next two years, he will go on to play for the senior side. It’s about trying to give everyone in 30 to give an opportunity.”