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09 February 201609:20

We know what to expect from Sri Lanka U-19, says Dravid

India U-19 coach says that the side is confident, but not over-confident; expects spin to play a role in semi-final clash

We know what to expect from Sri Lanka U-19, says Dravid
 - Cricket News

Rahul Dravid believes that it is a players’ team, and not a coach’s team.

On the eve of India Under-19’s semi-final clash against Sri Lanka Under-19 in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2016 at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Tuesday (February 9), Rahul Dravid, the Indian coach, addressed the media. He shared his views about the tournament, Mankading, India’s domestic structure and Bangladesh cricket among other topics. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of Sri Lanka?
We played them in a tri-series back in December. In that sense, we know what to expect from their side. They have a couple of seamers and lots of spinners. They do bowl a lot of overs of spin. Having said that, they also know what to expect. It should be a good contest. They are a pretty good side and we have been playing good cricket as well.

Do you think Sri Lanka has become a stronger side compared to the one you played against in Colombo?
Not really. We have played pretty convincingly. We played New Zealand and of course Nepal in these conditions, and they are quite a good side as we saw how they ran Bangladesh pretty close the other day.

Our lead-up into this tournament has been very, very good. We played three tough matches against the Board President’s XI, which had a lot of senior India boys, in Mumbai. We played against Sri Lanka and England in December, and we played against Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Kolkata. We have had some tough matches in the last three games. We feel we are ready and we can bring our A game to the party tomorrow.

Every game is a new game. We don’t want to take anything for granted. We know that to beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, we had to play very well. They are a very good team. We cannot afford to relax. We are confident but not over-confident.

Is this tournament a way to experience the feeling of winning a World Cup for you, since you never won one in your playing days?
I don’t really compare the two things. I believe it is a players’ team, and not really a coach’s team. I have been a player long enough to know a coach can have only a certain amount of impact on a team. It is really up to the players. It is their World Cup, their performances and theirs to win and lose. We are there to help them as coaches and support them in their journey as cricketers. I don’t really compare the two and I am not trying to win a World Cup because I haven’t won as a player. I think it has no relevance, really.

Does this tournament make you hopeful about the future of cricket?
It was really great to see Fiji, although we played against Ireland. I would call Ireland a little more established than them. We played against Nepal and Namibia. It was good to see some of the talent on show there, and also good to see that they are taking Under-19 cricket seriously.

It is just a great story. Having played in Scotland, I know how difficult it is for some of these countries to get people to play cricket, what a challenge it is in an amateur environment. Some of the more established Test teams, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, England, Australia and New Zealand, we are a lot luckier because the system is lot more established. There’s a lot of cricket at the junior level.

A lot of those teams and players make a lot of sacrifices to be able to get to a tournament like this. You have to applaud their spirit and energy, and what they bring to a tournament like this. I think it is a privilege to play against them.

Why do you think a lot of cricketers from Under-19 World Cups fail to graduate successfully to the next level in India?
It is hard to realise at 18 or 19 which one of these players will make it. The real challenge for them is what happens once they move out of this tournament. They are very, very talented to become the best 15 players in their country at this level. They play against boys of their own age group. Suddenly from here they have to play against men in the first-class system against international and established Ranji Trophy players. I think it is quite a leap. Sometimes we underestimate how much of a big jump that is, from this level to first-class cricket. It takes a bit of time to establish themselves.

Over the last few months we have had 22 players. We have given opportunity to all the players. I believe it is not about these 15, but we have another 15 back home. Just because they can’t play the World Cup, doesn’t mean they can’t go on to play international cricket. I think some of them might just mature a little bit later on. For these 15 players, it is a great journey to be a part of this World Cup and hopefully put in a good performance and win the World Cup.

What is your view on Mankading as a mode of dismissal?
Sometimes you don’t want to confuse the laws of the game and the spirit of the game. There’s a thin line. With regards to the Mankading incident (by Keemo Paul for West Indies against Zimbabwe), it was within the laws of the game if you had to look at it purely from the laws of the game. But obviously, it doesn’t look nice. It doesn’t come across very nicely because people don’t see that happen very often. While you can’t blame anybody, and I am not going to judge anyone because it was purely within the laws of the game. Having said that, it doesn’t really look nice in a tournament like this. It is a tough one for all concerned. I guess we have to come up with some kind of solution, like give a warning or something like that. At least if you give a warning, you feel that you have given the opposition team a chance. It is something for the future; I don’t want to judge the West Indies team and that particular player. What he did was within the laws of the game.

Five players from your team got IPL contracts …
It is a reality for a lot of our Indian cricketers; the fact that the IPL auction happens every year. There’s no point in us kidding ourselves and believing that they weren’t thinking about it, and weren’t hoping to be picked. It is just human nature. We spoke about it before and after the auction. There’s no issue but we have addressed it as yes, it is a factor and can be a distraction. It is over and done with. Their main focus is this World Cup, and they have been very good about it. We have a pretty good bunch; we played with a lot of energy in the game. We have been together now for three months. There’s a good vibe. Everyone is keen to do well.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni recently said that the Indian domestic structure is not producing enough finished products. What is your view on that?
I don’t know in what context MS Dhoni said that; I didn’t read or see this statement. I think in the batting department there are some very talented players coming through. If not finished, they are close to finished products in my opinion.

In the spin department, it takes a bit longer which is the reality. Spinners take a bit longer to mature as cricketers. Very rarely you see spinners go from Under-19 cricket (to international cricket). They need to play first-class cricket to grow. There will be odd exceptions to every rule. Fast bowlers also need time to develop.

What is your take on Bangladesh’s recent performances in international cricket?
Bangladesh have had a terrific last couple of seasons, especially playing at home and in the shorter format of the game. They are a force to reckon with. In the last couple of years they have been absolutely exceptional. It has coincided with the fact that Shakib (Al Hasan), Mushfiqur (Rahim) and (Mashrafe) Mortaza, who are a lot more senior, are really stars in the international stage as well.

I have not seen enough to comment but people tell me nice things about Mustafizur (Rahman). I saw one or two boys in the Bangladesh A team in India. Some nice talents like Mahmudullah, who has done well. The results tell me that the graph is going upwards, especially at home. I think their next challenge is to replicate these performances overseas for Bangladesh cricket.