Pep talk by Virat helped: Zol
India Under-19 captain, Vijay Zol, who led the Indian colts to the title in the tri-nation series in Australia in his very first stint at the helm, says that talking to Virat Kohli helped him prepare for the challenges and pressures of the tournament. Zol, who got an opportunity to interact with the premier India batsman during the Indian Premier League as part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad, said, “Being in the team with Virat Kohli while playing for RCB was one of the positive points; being with an international player and having conversations with him helped me. Although I was not named captain while I was in RCB, as a player I really improved.”
“Virat Kohli told me that you need to know your own game, and being a captain you need to lead the team from the front. You need to set some examples yourself,” he added.
Acting on the input of the former U-19 World Cup winning captain, Zol led from the front and was instrumental in India’s unbeaten streak in the series against Australia and New Zealand. He set the tone for the tournament Down Under with a valiant knock in the practice game against PNG when the colts were struggling to set a competitive total. He scored 293 runs from five matches in addition to a match-winning 48 in the practice game against PNG ahead of the tournament and earned accolades from his coach for his efforts.
Lauding Zol’s captaincy, coach B Arun said, “He led by example. He was there when the chips were down. Yes, he did handle the bowlers very well and he is very keen. He spends a lot of energy. He is keen to do very well and he brings in a lot of energy and confidence that he carries. I think that it is important for any captain to seem very confident. His previous experience and the fact that he is doing well also contributed to him doing a good job as captain.”
Although there was no special preparation on his part, Zol said that the vice-captaincy for his state team had prepared him for the new role. “I have been playing for my state (Maharashtra at various age group levels) for the last seven years. I have been vice-captain for last five or six years, so that was always there.”
The left-hand bat said that he also learnt a lot from former teammate and U-19 captain Unmukt Chand, who had led the Indian colts successfully during the 2012 ICC Under-19 World Cup. “As I have said before, Unmukt led the team really well. He is a friend of mine and I have learnt a bit from him also.”
Speaking about the tri-series victory, the 18-year-old said, “It feels special of course. Beating Australia and New Zealand overseas is something special; it takes a lot of hard work. Credit to the team and the support staff; we have been working hard. We have started on a good note for this year, and I am really looking forward to it.”
Speaking about the pressures while going into the tournament, he mentioned, “Yes of course it was there. But every player had done their hard work, earned his own place in the team and knew his own role and why he is in the team. So that makes my job easy.”
Asked what he told himself to stay motivated and play match-winning knocks, Zol said, “I had such responsibility and I need to take the team through whatever the situation might be. So, that kept me motivated. Me being named captain was itself a confidence booster for me.”
Zol said that his experiences from the previous season had helped him as a batsman too. “I knew what the conditions were going to be like over there. So accordingly I was practicing back home and in the National Cricket Academy (NCA Bangalore). The staff over there helped.”
Asked what he told his team during the course of the tournament, he said, “I just told them to settle down. Most of the players were making their debut. Only three or four of us were from the last batch, so I just wanted them to take their own time. We had a practice match over there and nets sessions after that; we had some fielding sessions too. I just wanted them to get familiar with the conditions and as I told you, they knew their own role in the team. I just told them to give their 100 percent and not worry about results. We are just worried about the efforts we put in. We just wanted to concentrate on the process, so the results are taken care of after that.”
Discussing the roles assigned to various players, he said, “They knew their game well, so they knew what role they had to play in the team and they themselves were really clear and that is what made the coach’s and my job real easy.”
“As in what matches you are going play, when you are coming in to play, what situations might be there, etc; the kind of practice and scenarios we had prepared for in the NCA. Bowlers were also told when they were going to bowl, what kind and the situation they might encounter in the powerplays or death overs, when they were going to bowl with the new ball. So that made it easy,” he added while appreciating the efforts of the NCA staff and the team’s support staff.
Coach B Arun also spoke highly of the team’s stint at the NCA going into the tournament. “We spent some quality time at the National Cricket Academy and we had a chance to see the players under different conditions and matches and things like that. So more or less we were able to identify areas where we needed to spend more time. You could simulate a lot of things, but there is nothing like firsthand experience. We did that for Australia. But I must say, these kids adapted exceptionally well once they went there.”
While discussing Zol’s batting, the coach said, “Zol and Akhil (Herwadkar, opening batsman) knew the conditions and they knew the challenges they have to meet and they knew what it takes to be successful. Zol had reasonable amount of success in the quadrangular and the World Cup. Akhil did not play the World Cup but he was there and he played the quadrangular series, so he knew what was coming. It was slightly easier for him to adapt to those conditions, and after winning the first game against Australia, I think the confidence level of the boys was really high and they knew they had the ability to beat any team in the world.”
Meanwhile, Zol is keen to stretch India U-19’s winning streak into the forthcoming tour to Sri Lanka where the Indian colts will play two four-day games beginning July 23, 2013 in addition to three one-dayers. Excited to don the white jersey, Zol said, “It is my dream to play in the senior team. So this is going to be something special for us to wear the white jersey with the national logo.”