It was attitude, more than the way they batted or bowled, that characterised the grooming of the India Under-19 team which won the World Cup on Saturday.
National junior selection committee chairman Venkatesh Prasad told Sportstar , “We (selectors and support staff) were looking more at their attitude more than just batting or bowling. We were very particular at looking at the fielding aspect of the players. Fielding was impeccable – catching, direct hits.
“To me, fielding was extremely important when analysing the individuals. In fact, their fitness and attitude contributed to their cricket. When you are a good fielder you are also a good athlete. I thought this team was intimidating the opposition with its athleticism and fielding.”
Prasad was lavish in praising coach Rahul Dravid for his “exemplary” guidance. “These boys are really fortunate to have Dravid as the coach. He brings such discipline and focus that you end up giving your best in the most testing situations. Working with Dravid was a great experience. We had our differences at times but overall it was a fine experience working with this great student of the game.”
In his third year as selector with Rakesh Parikh and Gyanendra Pandey as colleagues, Prasad, who had previously been the India Under-19 coach, said he was “surprised” by the speed factor. “Bowling at 140-plus. It was amazing. One of the best I have seen. (Shivam) Mavi and (Kamlesh) Nagarkoti are headed for bigger deeds. I would like them to stick to their natural style. There should not be any tampering with their bowling style and skills.”
According to Prasad, the role of the support staff in the journey was huge. “We were rotating the players and it was obviously not easy for the coaches with constant changes. Our idea was to keep the hopes alive for every player. We wanted every player to have a sense of participation. We had a large number of players figuring in the Indian team before the core group was finalised following suggestions from Dravid.”
‘Splendid structure’ of junior cricket
Giving credit to the Board, Prasad noted, “It is the splendid structure of junior cricket that is responsible for the team’s success. The amount of cricket played at the Under-16 and Under-19 level prepares the players well. It would be nice if the Board considered the Under-19 Tests as first-class games. I am happy junior cricket was played in coloured clothing and with white ball for the first time this season. It helped this team a lot.
“Hope the boys stay focussed and don’t get carried away by the fame and glamour that comes with success. I want them to keep the process of learning going. The youngsters should make use of the opportunity of being under Dravid’s guidance. It will be interesting [to see] how many of them graduate to the next level.”