India U-19 coach Mhambrey discusses the road to World Cup final

In a free-wheeling chat, India U-19 coach Paras Mhambrey explains the factors that led to beating Pakistan U-19 in the semifinal, the process prior to the World Cup, and how they'll prepare for the final.

India U-19

India U-19 players celebrate the wicket of Pakistan U-19's Mohammad Harris in the first semifinal of the U-19 World Cup.   -  AFP

It was literally a walk in the park for India’s U-19 team. With Yashasvi Jaiswal hammering an unbeaten century, the colts defeated Pakistan by 10 wickets to reach a third consecutive U-19 World Cup final.

As the players celebrated the win, the team’s head coach, Paras Mhambrey, admitted that he did not expect such an one-sided semifinal clash.

“Honestly, no one will (expect this), especially when it is a semifinal game with Pakistan. It’s a tough opponent. What we definitely knew was that it will be a tough and competitive game, what we made out of it was different,” he told Sportstar from Potchefstroom late on Tuesday.

In a free-wheeling chat, the seasoned coach spoke about the team’s preparations, Sunday’s final and the road ahead.

An India-Pakistan clash is always exciting, but this turned out to be an one-sided affair for the Indian team. Did you expect such an easy win in the semifinal?

No. Honestly, no one will (expect this), especially when it is a semifinal game with Pakistan. It’s a tough opponent. What we definitely knew was that it will be a tough and competitive game, what we made out of it was different. But honestly, I think the way things panned out is just that you know…

You want you prepare in a certain manner and every team does that. And that sense of preparation was nothing different. But obviously the way it turned out, the credit must be given to the to the guys who really executed the plans and eventually finished the game off. Obviously, the bowlers did the job for us. It was definitely a good wicket to bat first. I thought it was a 250-plus wicket for sure, and in that sense to bundle Pakistan out for 172 -- the bowlers did really well.

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Everyone contributed so there was no let back from there and then you know, the low-scoring games can sometimes can be tricky. But that’s where the openers (Yashasvi Jaiswal and Divyaansh Saxena) showed a lot of maturity in terms of way they handled things and the way they progressed. I am pretty happy to see that really.

The youngsters have been doing well, but then, a semifinal is always challenging. So, after losing the toss, what was your advice to the players?

I think one thing we definitely discussed is to focus on what we could control. Toss was one of the things that you can’t control. Even if we had won the toss, and maybe if you look at the other way around, had we batted, I think we still had to play well. We still had to bat well and play the first 10-over Powerplay and then progress accordingly. The bottom line was you need to play well, and you need to be consistent in all the roles that you play. And that was a key. That’s the general discussion we had. We can't control the toss, but you need to execute, that was all the focus. So we had to play well, that was the key.

This has been a tournament to remember for the bowlers. What, do you think, has worked for them so far?

We all have played altogether for a long time. The preparation started a year and a half back. So, in that sense these guys have played together a lot, understand each other, and very importantly, in terms of the way we progress, they adapted to their role. They understand what their role is in the team. And I don't really have to intervene so much saying that, ‘Oh, this is what you need to do.’ I know the kind of discussions we had over the period. Here, individually as a player and as a team, everyone is very clear what roles they need to play and what is required when. That’s where their smartness and intelligence comes in. The effort that they put in comes in. As a support staff, we can always say a lot of things and it ends there. But to go out there and to be able to execute them under pressure as well -- the credit has gone to the boys. They are still 18-year-old or 19-year-old guys, but in terms of maturity, they are far ahead of their age. That's very important.

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You spoke about the team bonding and that has been quite evident in the tournament so far. Even though Priyam Garg is the captain, the others have ensured that they back him well. If one player has a bad day, the others have stepped in and delivered. How do you see this?

It's an effort made by every individual. It just doesn't happen something. What works kind of in their favour is that we played a lot of cricket together. We played a lot of tournaments together, it's just not not the first-class cricket, club cricket or domestic cricket that they play. After we finalised on this kind of combination, we knew what were the numbers and who were the players we're looking at. We played a lot of cricket. These guys have toured England, we played against Afghanistan, South Africa, so there was lot of cricket that we played with each other. In that sense, you know the person as well, you start understanding the person very well.

You also understand what that person -- Priyam as a captain -- expect out of that individual in the team. That’s where all the team spirit comes in, that’s where all that the camaraderie comes in. That, over the period, we have reached a stage where these guys have a belief among each other and they understand that in any given time, any one of them is good enough win the game. They have done it in the past. Every individual out here has at some point or the other contributed to the winning of the team. That really matters. Everyone believes that, you know, I might have a bad day, but they are the guys who can win the game. The team doesn’t depend on one or two individuals. It depends on all the 15 members.

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Yashasvi Jaiswal struck his first hundred of the U-19 World Cup, sealing the run-chase with a six.   -  PTI

You were associated with the U-19 side which won the World Cup in 2018, under the captaincy of Prithvi Shaw. So, how different is this side from the last, in terms of skills? This team seems to have more all-rounders…

I think in terms of the team, every year, every team is different. So, it's not easy for anybody to say, that we had this or that team had this. Every team has challenges. That lot (of 2018) also had different challenges. Obviously, we had quality players in that team as well, which we do in this team as well. First and foremost, that's what we've done over the period is, not compare what the earlier team had. The focus is on what we have right now. We have a good combination of good all-rounders and that actually is a positive. You have Atharva (Ankolekar), who can bat and bowl. Shubhang Hegde is one of the other guys who's a spinner who can bat eventually. Sadly, he hasn’t got a game (after the opener against Sri Lanka). We have got quality fast bowlers.

In terms of three guys that are playing right now have a good backup in terms Vidya (Vidyadhar Patil) coming in as a fast bowler. So at any given stage, if we think that we need to replace any one of them, we know that Vidya will be able to turn up on the ground and deliver. A lot of these guys play a lot of cricket. Someone like Priyam has played a lot of first-class cricket. He has performed at that level. Yashasvi (Jaiswal) has done that. He recently got a double-hundred. So, all of these guys have played first-class cricket as well. So in terms of the experience, they have the experience. That’s helping the team really well, in terms of the combinations. It sometimes become a challenge if you don't have players to get into the right combination. That challenge is not here. We have the added advantage of having all-rounders in the middle-order, so we can really go with two quality spinners you. Ravi (Bishnoi) comes in there and he can bat, which he has done in the last game. That really balances the team.

This is also a big challenge for you as a coach. In 2018, Rahul Dravid was the coach of the side, and now, the responsibility is on you. How different is it without Dravid around?

This process is something, which obviously I have worked with Rahul for so many years. And that's something which we want to continue from where he left. That’s a lot of process that has gone into it, it’s just the way we want to play this game. The focus has never been just winning, the emphasis is not winning on this big for this level. And I think that's very clear. In terms of what form of communication we have a conversation we have with every individual, the pressure on them is not to win. What we want to take them out is a learning from this level. Because once they move on to the next level, it is going to be a bigger challenge for them.

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India U-19 coach Paras Mhambrey (right) keen to continue the process the team had under Rahul Dravid.   -  K. Murali Kumar

First-class cricket is challenging and it’s going to be tough, and that's what we want to pass on. And that's what we did with the last batch and similarly that’s what we are doing with this batch as well. We want to pass on all the knowledge. Once they they move on from this, and enter the open, they can take something with them to fall back on. Whatever learning they had from here in whatever manner that we can. That’s the process we are following. That’s what Rahul did and we are also following the same process. The boys have really adapted to it, they have understood it and really reciprocating to it.

Bangladesh and New Zealand will lock horns in the second semifinal on Thursday. Ahead of Sunday’s final, what is going to be the strategy for the Indian team?

We are ready for both (the teams). We played New Zealand in the league game. We also have played Bangladesh in the Asia Cup. It’s a World Cup final, it’s going to be an important game for everyone. So, nothing is really going to change. We will still follow the process, the way we practice. We have our own ways to do it and we will focus on that. Right now, we want the boys to enjoy for the next two days. They really worked hard for this win. The preparation has been hard for the last three days. So it's important for them to to enjoy this. And let this win soak in. Just relax for a couple of days and then take it on from there.

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