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We’ve managed to get better results by not stressing on outcomes: Rahul Dravid

The India A coach reflects on the successful tour of the UK and his behind-the-scenes role to keep the feeder line bursting with talent

In different corners of England over the last one-month, Indian cricketers of various age groups were busy playing different forms of the game. The senior team was engaged in white-ball battles while the India A members who had arrived earlier had moved on to the red ball after a clinching a fine victory in the one-day tri-series at The Oval over England Lions, the home team.

Soon after that final, Deepak Chahar and Krunal Pandya joined the senior T2OI side while Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur completed the ODI squad. The India A team played three-first class game and at the end of the sojourn, captain Karun Nair, wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant found themselves in the all-important Test squad.

Having a pool of players that can take up responsibility at the top level whenever there is a need and not let vacuum develop when a senior player in the national side is injured is something that Rahul Dravid and his team of support staff are looking to achieve.

The former India captain explains that in great detail in this interview with bcci.tv

How would you sum up India A’s Tour to England? The team won the one-day tri-series and played three four-day games.

This has been a pretty successful tour of the UK both in the one-day and the four-day games that we played here. Winning the one-day series was nice and we got a couple of good results against West Indies A. It was a bit disappointing to lose our last game of the tour against England Lions.

From a coaching perspective, there were a lot of lessons that we learnt through the course of this trip. There were some challenging wickets that we got to play on and the quality of the opposition was very good as well. On tours like these, I feel the critical element is not so much the result, but it is really about the exposure and opportunities that you give to the players. Most of them are pushing for selection into the national side. It is an opportunity for them to learn how to play in these conditions against a tougher opposition and to see where they actually stand.

The level here is above the first-class level and just below the international level. When you consider all the factors, I feel we had a really good tour. We found ourselves under pressure both in the one-day and the four-day games and we found people to step up and deliver performances. We had a lot of positives and some learning as well. We definitely could have done better in the batting department in the final game, but against a strong England Lions side, it was a great lesson for the batsmen on how to play in English conditions.

Deepak Chahar and Krunal Pandya were named in India’s T20I squad. Axar Patel and Shardul Thakur in the ODI squad being with the India A team. Shardul, Karun Nair and Rishabh Pant are also in the Test squad. Is this the very motive of having shadow tours that BCCI is now planning where the A team travels just before the senior side?

It is a great idea to have shadow tours. It may not be always possible, but whenever it is possible, it is highly beneficial. A lot of players have joined the national side from this team. It also gave an opportunity to Ajinkya Rahane and M Vijay to come down and spend time with us and play a practice game that was competitive and tough.

Having the India A team tour before the national side opens up many possibilities in terms of preparations for both the sides. It also serves as motivation for many players, for they know when they do well on A tours, they will be picked in the national team.

You have seen Rishabh Pant from a young age. He has now got a maiden call-up to the Test side. From shorter formats to longer, how has this transformation been for him?

Rishabh was quite excellent on the tour. He is obviously a very talented player. He showed in three or four innings that he was willing to bat differently. We all know the way he bats. Even in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season when he got over to 900 runs his S/R was 100 plus and we have seen him bat similarly in the IPL as well.

On this trip, we challenged him a lot to bat according to the situation. He got a critical 64 (not out) in the one-day final when he was the last recognized batsman and also against West Indies A when he put on a 100-run partnership with Jayant Yadav.

He showed that he could bat differently. He has the temperament and skills to bat differently. He is always going to be an attacking player but reading of the situation when you are playing red ball cricket is required. We are glad he has been picked in the national team and I hope he takes this maturity into the national team and hopefully builds from thereon.

With India having such a vast talent pool and with so many skilful players around, giving them game-time and nurturing them must be something very challenging.

I think the biggest challenge is the quality of players and the number of players. All those who are part of the India A sides are those who have performed and deserve an opportunity to play. It is not easy to give everyone an opportunity but we try our best and rotate the squad as much as possible. We ensure everyone gets a game if not two.

We don’t focus on results and in fact, by doing that, we are getting good results. The quality is there not only in the playing XI, but the whole squad. Yes, the challenge is there and you feel for the boys. We are now organizing more A tours and it gives them an opportunity and also the selectors an opportunity to look at them and rotate the squad.

For me, the A tours are a step up from domestic cricket. It is really a good barometer for them and the selectors to see whether they can perform or not. If they don’t do well it is still a good opportunity to learn and go back to domestic cricket and work on the things they need to. It is a very good buffer to have in between, as you don’t get exposed at the Test level. It gives a very good test of where these boys are and an understanding of the skills that need to be worked on both in bowling and batting.

BCCI Staff

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‘Focussed’ Mayank reaps benefits of backing natural game

On a run-making spree this season, the Karnataka opener reveals how Rahul Dravid’s advice turned it around for him

After finishing as the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy 2017 - 18, Mayank Agarwal is topping the batting charts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2017-18. During his 81-run knock in the semi-final of the ongoing one-day tournament, he surpassed Dinesh Karthik’s record for most runs in a single Vijay Hazare Trophy season. Ahead of the final, he has 633 runs from seven matches at an average of 90.42, including three centuries.

Speaking about the record Agarwal told, bcci.tv, “It feels nice that I have got these many runs. Also, I feel extremely happy that these runs are contributing to Karnataka’s wins.”

‘Try and enjoy the game as much as you can and try and contribute to the team’s success,’ has been Agarwal’s mantra and it has paid rich dividends through the season.

The advice from Rahul Dravid, former India captain and coach of India A and Under 19, has also helped the batsman. “This season during a series against New Zealand A, Rahul bhai was our coach. I spoke to him and during our chat, he told me, 'Mayank you should be more consistent. You should think about managing your mental energies. You are thinking too much, you are trying too hard.' Then he made me understand how he went about things and how he felt there was a difference. I followed his advice of not thinking too much, not over analyzing and enjoying the game rather than always trying to be on the lookout for a few things. I realized I could preserve my mental energies and enjoy the game better, which is important." 

Discussing his form and consistency against the red ball as well as the white ball, Agarwal observed, “I think it is more about the mindset. The basics remain the same. If you understand your role and you understand your game then I think it is more about mindset. It’s about cutting down risks when you are playing four-day and five-day cricket and then more of percentage cricket in fifty overs. In T20s, you play according to the situation – whether high risk or how you decide according to the situation."

However, during a season, cricketers have to switch gears from one format to another in quick time. Explaining how he went about the task, Agarwal said, “That’s the beauty of domestic cricket and international cricket, you have to switch gears quickly. It becomes very important to use the practice sessions, the time between tournaments to go back and set your plans and practice hard for different formats and with a different ball.”

Elaborating further on his process, the opener said, “For Ranji Trophy, it was mostly about practicing for different conditions, playing with new balls more, playing on wet wickets, on astroturf wickets where there is more seam and more bounce. When it came to Twenty20, it was more about playing those few strokes and sticking to those strokes that are my strength.

"In the fifty-over format, it is about pacing the innings well. Also, I practiced hard for the middle overs – between 10 to 40 overs. We practice a lot of match situations and about different conditions, so I got to understand my game better. I was not trying to be technically very correct, but found out my way of doing things."

One of the persons who has helped Agarwal along in his path is his coach. “I would give a lot of credit to my coach RX Murali sir. He has been a big influence, working on mental and technical aspects,” he said.

“We said we will play aggressive cricket and I will look to play my natural game. If I get set, then I need to make it big. That was the focus but no goals in terms of numbers as such,” he added. 

Agarwal has been the mainstay of the Karnataka line-up this season and will be looking to help his side win the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Although one of the more well-rounded teams, a title has been elusive for Karnataka this season. Looking forward to the final against Saurashtra, the batsman said, “I think we played really good cricket. However, we missed out narrowly on the semi-final (Ranji Trophy). Now we are playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy final. We are looking forward to it and we are very excited, but we are going to stick to our process and keep doing the things that have been working for us.”

BCCI Staff

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