India U19 coach feels the youth world champions should try to fit in to the first-class level now even if they have it tough initially.
India might have taken home the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018 trophy after winning all their matches by big margins, but Rahul Dravid, the team coach, felt the team did not play their best game in the final of the tournament, when they beat Australia by eight wickets.
“Some of the boys did come to me and say that the final felt very different over the other games and I told I don’t think we played our No. 1 game in the final,” said Dravid at a function in Mumbai on Monday (February 5) evening. “I think we played it in the semi-final and the quarter-final, but we got the result that we needed.”
Dravid, the former India captain, emphasised that it was the process of getting the youngsters ready for the World Cup that was the most important part and that the real work for the boys will only start now.
“I think, just the whole preparation and planning that has gone into, I won’t say necessarily this World Cup, but over the last 14-16 months is a good process that we put in place and like everything else you have to keep refining it, getting better at it and keep improving on that process,” said Dravid.
“The challenges and the hard work start from here. The hard work begins for them and for us as well, as to how we manage these boys over the next few years. Even if not a lot of them go on to play for India, it can happen. It's not easy to get into the Indian side. It depends on the number of players who are performing – that makes it difficult to break in at times. If they go on to have successful first-class careers, then from thereon it becomes a stepping stone for international cricket.”
Continuing with the theme, Dravid pointed out that while only one Indian player from the victorious 2012 side had gone on to represent the senior team – Sandeep Sharma, in only two Twenty20 Internationals – the runners-up in that final, Australia, had already blooded six of their players: Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Cameron Bancroft, Ashton Turner, Joel Paris and Gurinder Sandhu.
“It was interesting because the 2012 final featured India and Australia; the result of the final will tell you that India beat Australia. Six years down the line, while only one of those boys played a couple of games for India, four-five Australians have gone on to play for Australia. So, more of their guys have gone on to play first-class cricket. The debatable point is actually who won that final, if you look back six years later. So I think those are interesting chats and conversations to be had.”
As for the present, though, Dravid was pleased, especially because India went through the campaign undefeated. “I am really happy for these 15 boys who get to wear a World Cup medal and get to win it because it’s been hard work, there have been sacrifices by a lot of them, and just the way that they played, the way they gelled as a unit, the quality of cricket that they played, the way they executed plans even under pressure,” he pointed out. “In games that we found pressure, there have always been players who stood up and delivered, these are the kind of things that give you a lot of satisfaction.
“My wish is for them to play at that (first-class) level even if they have a couple of tough years and they fail, I think they’ll be better off for it than coming here and playing at the Under-19 level which they clearly are too good for. That’s not my decision, that’s my view.”