Prithvi to Mavi: Future perfect after IPL tryst

After lifting the U-19 World Cup, performances of key players of the triumphant side are being keenly followed at the ongoing IPL 2018.

KKR's Shivam Mavi has had a decent start so far in his debut IPL season.   -  PTI

They have been the world beaters at the U-19 level, but for most members of India’s World Cup-winning side, the last few weeks have been quite eventful, and for the obvious reason.

Of the seven players who were picked by the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises for their U-19 exploits, only three - Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and Shivam Mavi - have featured for their respective teams so far, while three others - Anukul Roy, Abhishek Sharma and Manjot Kalra - still warm the bench, hoping for their turns. And Kamlesh Nagarkoti, one of the brightest spots of the U-19 side, has been ruled out of the tournament following a freak injury during a training session for Kolkata Knight Riders.

While Prithvi had a memorable outing for Delhi Daredevils in its last fixture - where he opened the innings and hammered 62 - Shubman and Shivam haven’t been that successful so far.

If Shivam has just picked up three wickets in six games - conceding 172 runs - Shubman could only manage 65 runs from six outings.

To make things worse, Shivam - donning the Knight Riders colours - conceded 29 runs in an over against the Daredevils a few days back.

BACK THE YOUNG GUNS

One look at the overall performance of the U-19 boys may not portray a pretty picture, but then, there’s another side to it — these bunch of boys are just graduating to the big league and need time. There’s also another factor that needs to be kept into consideration. Shubman, who is primarily a top-order batsman, is currently batting down the order for KKR.

Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why former chief junior national selector and erstwhile U-19 coach, Chandrakant Pandit, believes that it is important for the franchises to back its players to the tilt.

“May be, the franchises will be looking for consistent performers. They will of course be result-oriented. But it is important for the franchise to back the young guns. May be, the senior players can help,” Pandit says.

Having worked with the younger players for a long time, Pandit is impressed with the way the new kids on the block have handled pressure. “The youngsters are being given the opportunity and they are grabbing them. It is amazing to see even Prithvi adapting to the conditions so well,” Pandit says, quickly pointing out that the players’ ‘attitude’ has changed for the better.

While he is happy with this early promotion for the boys, Pandit is also a bit concerned. “I still worry about them adapting to the longer format. You have to have capacity like Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Laxman to sustain for longer period. That will be a challenge for them,” the seasoned coach says.

 

Even former chief of junior national selection committee, Abey Kuruvilla, is happy with the way more and more talents from the U-19 are being considered for selection at the top level. And, the former India pacer, also credits India’s U-19 coach, Rahul Dravid, for this. “Now with Rahul at the helm, and with (assistant coaches) Paras (Mhambrey) and Abhay (Sharma), they are trained quite well. They are used to playing well. Good ones will perform at the highest level well,” Kuruvilla explains. “The guys like Shreyas (Iyer), Rishabh (Pant) have graduated from U-19. It will take a bit of time for the new guys to settle, but they will do well,” the former national chief selector says.

KEEP THEM MOTIVATED

If Prithvi, Shubman or Shivam are being handed chances, what about the ones who are being benched for days now? For a youngster, it must be challenging to keep the morale high. Kuruvilla, however, differs. “Interacting with top national and international players will help them. They will learn from the experience, even if they are not playing,” Kuruvilla reasons.

Even the franchise bosses admit that the U-19 boys are now being exposed to a different environment, which they find comforting and at the same time, quite exciting.

Knight Riders CEO, Venky Mysore, explains the reason behind getting so many U-19 players on board. “It is important to understand that we just did not go for U-19 players or youngsters in particular to say, ‘oh, we want them because the average age of the team has to be young’. The idea was to focus on certain skill sets and you are also doing long-term planning. This was a big auction, so you are thinking of minimum three years. When we started looking for skills is when we started zeroing in on certain players. It so happened that they were from U-19 World Cup-winning team. Their enthusiasm is high, they are wide-eyed and are always willing to learn everything,” Mysore explains.

Hrishikesh Kanitkar, a former India batsman and someone who has worked as an assistant coach at Rising Pune Supergiant, however, has a different take. “About seven or eight players are fixed in a team set-up. The rest four keep on changing. It is extremely important to keep the players on the bench motivated as most of them are youngsters. Majority of these players are responsibility of assistant coaches,” he says, adding: “To keep their hopes high is important, so that they don’t appear under-prepared when their turn comes. And if they don’t perform, they go into a low mode. That’s even worse.”

RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH SUPERSTARS

Perhaps, that is one of the reasons, most of the franchises ensure that the young guns get to mix well with the seniors and are encouraged to take part in all team-bonding exercises so that they don’t feel left out. Many franchises also have specialist mind coaches to work with these boys. “It is not only a physical aspect, but at most of the time, it is also a psychological aspect. So, to get the mind right, you can have a successful campaign but it’s not only your physical skill. The physical skills of the players are more or less the only change that we can make in getting the mind right,” noted adventurer, Mike Horn, who worked with the young guns at the KKR in the early phase of the tournament, explains.

While the franchises definitely deserve the credit for helping the young guns come at par with top international talents, former chief national junior selector, Connor Williams, credits a solid junior level set-up for this. “The system at the national level is helping the boys to catch up with the highest level. The fitness level has improved at this age, and that helps in their game,” Williams says.

“They are playing lot of matches and are encouraged even at state levels. A good performance at the state-level also opens doors for Ranji Trophy. That helps the confidence grow,” he says.

So, even if a Shubman or a Shivam have bad days on the field, they appear more confident after each game. After all, this is the platform that not only teaches you how to handle pressure, but also gives one the confidence to compete with superstars across the globe.

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