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.
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.