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India keen to retain U19 World Cup trophy

Team to concentrate on their strengths and the raise the bar for the tournament

Defending champions India are set to begin their campaign to retain the ICC Under-19 World Cup Trophy under the leadership of Vijay Zol. The India captain was also a part of the team that won the previous edition in 2012 and says that the experience will help as they start the journey again.

The Zol-led team has had a good run-up to the coveted tournament and prepared to take on the challenge.

Ahead of the tournament, captain Zol and coach B Arun addressed the media in India and spoke about the team’s preparation and composition.

Excerpts from the press conference:

Taking on Pakistan

B Arun: We are always going to respect the opposition first. The fact that we have played Pakistan earlier this year in the Asia cup (helps) – the first match was very close and we won the final convincingly. So, we draw a lot of confidence from that game, and the approach will be like any other game.

Zol: It’s a different ball game whenever you play Pakistan. They are in good position as an Under-19 team. They have played well together as a unit. But, as a team, we will look at them as just another game. We will concentrate on the processes, and not the results.

Assessment of the squad

B Arun: The performance of the squad in the last one year says a lot. We played major One-Day International tournaments and we won all the tournaments convincingly. Obviously, there is always room for us to improve, and that’s exactly what we are working on. We have done very well, but in a World Cup, you need to raise the bar. There is always scope for improvement.

Can you describe where that scope is for improvement?

B Arun: Everywhere. We made a few mistakes during those tournaments, and the challenge now is to not make those mistakes again. We have probably been one of the best fielding teams in the world, and we want to be No. 1 in fielding. That is something we really need to work hard on, to raise the bar.

Pitches are different in Australia and UAE. How have you prepared?

Zol: There was extra bounce in Australian pitches. We adapted really well and won 5-0 and it was a great experience for us. Comparatively, in Dubai and Sharjah, the pitches didn’t have much help for pace bowlers and spinners. They wickets there were batsmen-friendly. So, it was like a batting paradise. For the batsmen, it wasn’t much of a worry, and as a bowling unit, we did really well over there. As a fielding unit, we have been superb. Slight adjustments here and there, and we were alright over there.

You (Zol) were part of the previous team as well. How different has the preparation been?

Zol: Not much of a difference. Even then, we had a good camp and we have almost followed the same routine. Winning the previous World Cup was a great memory for us, it was a great experience. This team is no less than that. We have done really well in the past four tournaments, and we are looking forward to the World Cup now.

How different is this team from the previous won?

B Arun: I think it’s unfair to compare the two teams. That team was good, and so is this one. I guess being part of the previous World Cup was a pretty good experience. We were a little more nervous then, we didn’t know the ways of how to get over this nervousness like now. So that’s going to really help us.

Team has been together for a long time. Is that your biggest plus?

B Arun: We have been together for over a year. I guess, you begin to understand that more than the sport, you need to understand each other. They see the other side of a player, and more than anything else, we have always had the policy of never looking at the outcome. We are going to enjoy playing together, enjoying being together and enjoy doing things together and I guess we are going to carry the same thing on the field. That is the focus of the entire camp.

On the camp ahead of the tournament

B Arun: There’s definitely going to be pressure, heading into a major tournament like this. The challenge is to conquer the pressure that you’re going to face. We set the processes in the boot camp for the clarity of role –each one has to understand his role in the team – and we have set the process to achieve those roles. More focus on the process would take you away from the pressure. That’s what we concentrated on.

Activities you did in the camp?

B Arun: We did a lot of team building activities. The boys went on their own, together, to formulate the most important aspects you need to do well in the World Cup. We had rappelling and trust walk and things like that, which you help you in a non-cricket environment where you need to focus more on the process and trust the leader. And that helps you go with the activity pretty smoothly, and relating that to cricket again, it comes down to process.

Ranji final didn’t go well for you (Zol). So how big a challenge is this World Cup?

Zol: For me, playing the Ranji final itself was a great experience. I learnt a lot of things in the first-class season this year. I was disappointed I couldn’t contribute to the team when it counted. But I learnt a few things, which I would like to implement in the World Cup now. Probably, winning the World Cup would make me happier and it would compensate for not contributing in the Ranji final.  

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Report: New Zealand vs India - 1st Test, Day 4

Pacers hand New Zealand thrilling victory

New Zealand won the engaging contest between bat and ball by 40 runs in the first Test at Auckland. The third and fourth day of the match witnessed fortunes swing like a pendulum at the Eden Park.

The Indian bowlers gave the team a second chance to make amends and change the course of the game after Brendon McCullum had led the New Zealand domination in the first innings. Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara then stitched a partnership to keep the match hanging in balance at the end of Day 3. Then on the fourth day, Virat Kohli joined Shikhar Dhawan to tip the balance in India's favour with a 126-run partnership. But the Black Caps pace attack struck at regular intervals in the last two sessions to keep their team in the game and grab victory to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match Test series.

Neil Wagner claimed four wickets while Tim Southee and Trent Boult claimed three wickets each to turn the game around for New Zealand.
Earlier in the day, the initial period of the morning was about the only time that belonged to the home team as Tim Southee and Trent Boult asked questions off the Indian batsmen. They kept the batsmen on a leash as they bowled a probing line. Southee, who has been the pick of the bowlers, swung the ball to keep the batsman on his toes.

The only run that came off the first over of the day was a single to mid-off by Shikhar Dhawan which also took the opener to his fifty. With the match hanging in balance the batsmen played watchfully. In the fifth over of the morning, Southee struck to give his team a crucial breakthrough.

 A classic outswinger from the leader of the bowling attack brushed past Pujara’s bat and was caught by BJ Watling leaving India on 96 for two.

Virat Kohli then joined forces with Dhawan to pull the game back in India’s favour. After initially biding his time at the crease, the No. 4 India bat kept the scoreboard moving. He sent Southee racing through covers for four and in the following over, collected two more off Neil Wagner.

Boundaries started flowing in at more regular intervals. A bit later he collected three boundaries off Ish Sodhi to reach 41. Meanwhile, Dhawan too sent the odd ball to the fence as he built the innings. In the last over before lunch, Kohli struck Kane Williamson through mid-off and cover to reach his half-century, while Dhawan cut the bowler for four more to take India to 180 for two at lunch.

The two continued where they had left and kept the scoreboard ticking. As he approached the three-figure mark Dhawan smashed Sodhi for a six over the on-side and cut the next ball to bring up his century with a boundary. With the spinner being unable to contain the batsmen, Brendon McCullum replaced him with Wagner. The bowler responded with a wicket. A low catch by Watling had Kohli walk back for 67 making way for Rohit Sharma. But with India on 222 for three, the Blackcaps had conceded the advantage to India.

The top-scorer for India in the first innings, Rohit cut and pulled with ease even as he bided his time at the crease.

But as the innings progressed, Dhawan who was looking comfortable at the crease and looked set for the long haul was bounced by Wagner for 115.

Ajinkya Rahane (18 off 21) then supported Rohit in taking the innings forward and was garnering runs with ease when was adjudged leg-before off the first delivery with the new ball by Boult.

MS Dhoni then joined Rohit in the middle and the pair took India to 270 for five at tea.

With 137 runs still needed, Southee took the edge off Rohit’s bat and Watling took his fifth catch of the innings to leave India on 270 for six off the first ball of the final session.

Claiming two wickets in two overs with the new ball, Boult and Southee had left the match precariously poised. However, the last recognised Indian batting pair – Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja counter attacked. They ran quickly between the wickets, converting singles into twos and dismissed the ball to the boundary to bring the required runs to double-digit numbers.

However, Jadeja’s onslaught soon came to end. After hitting Boult for a six, he was caught at mid-off while looking to clear the field for another hit to the fence.

Senior-most member of the team, Zaheer Khan, joined the captain as the match once again hung in balance. The lower-order batsman got off the mark with an upper-cut to the fence but after contributing 17 he was dismissed by Wagner off the first ball after drinks break.

With 58 runs required, Ishant Sharma came to the crease. With the No. 10 batsman at the other end Dhoni farmed the strike but 13 runs later the India captain was castled by Wagner.

At 362 for nine India’s Mohammed Shami walked in to take guard but after hitting a four Ishant was felled by Boult to bowl India out for 366.