The start of a new season might be some time away but Indian cricket keeps rolling even in the off-season. Back after a successful UK tour, the India A boys are preparing for the two bilateral and a quadrangular series while the U19 boys are in Sri Lanka and getting ready for a dose of white ball action.
The U19s just wrapped up the four-day format winning the two-match series 2-0. The team led by Anuj Rawat won the first Youth Test in Colombo by an innings and 21 runs and the second in Hambantota by an innings and 147 runs.
Two four-day games and India U19 won both the matches by an innings. How pleased are you with this performance?
It is good to see these boys perform well in the four-day version. These boys need to realize that they can hone their skills and develop the right qualities that are required by doing well in the four-day games. The boys showed application and a lot of temperament, which is very crucial at this stage. One should also appreciate the system we have in domestic cricket. These boys get to play the longer format in the BCCI tournaments. It’s a question of opportunities and a case for these boys making good use of the opportunities.
With the U19 World Cup taking place every two years, the focus always remains on the 50-over game. How important is to have even the youngsters play the longest format of the game?
The biannual World Cup is a very important tournament and also a star attraction for these boys, as they like to play the shorter format. It is equally important to play the longer format, as it is there that your temperament; mental toughness and skills are tested. These boys need to play the longer format more as you see that cricketers who succeed in the longer format find it easier to adapt to the shorter format. It is vital that when they start their career, they play the longer format too.
You very well know how to score a triple century. What was your advice to Pavan Shah during the knock and particularly after he was run out on 282?
The way this question is framed, it has made a Bradman out of me and I think it is a bit embarrassing (laughs). The way Pavan Shah constructed his innings and the way he played, there was not much I needed to tell him. Not every day in your life you get close to a triple century and once he got out on 282, he was disappointed. I tried to tell him that it was rather unfortunate. It was really disappointing for the kid, as he got run-out of all dismissals. The way he was batting, he never looked like getting out. The way he played that innings is an indication of his ability to play long innings. He has the hunger to play long innings. I am sure in the future, he will grab his opportunities and go on to make a triple century. When somebody does it at this stage, he knows how to get there and the next time he gets close to a landmark, he will achieve it.
At NCA, you deal with the seniors as well as junior players. But with the U19 team, it must be very different. What are the aspects of the game that you focus on? What is your coaching philosophy for these youngsters?
At the U19 level, you expect them to make a few mistakes due to their inexperience. It is the age where they can make mistakes and they can learn from their mistakes. It is completely different from handling a senior side where you would expect a certain kind of efficiency from individuals as well as the team.
At the U19 level it is important to ease the pressure off them and make them realize that when they are starting their careers, it is very normal to make mistakes. You try and encourage them to be their own selves and not try and make them do things that are completely alien to them and not in their framework of cricket. They have got to develop their natural style and try and do the things, the way they do. My philosophy with the boys is to tell them to enjoy the game and not to be shy of making mistakes. Nobody has played this game without making mistakes. I tell them to not keep repeating their mistakes and learn as quickly as possible.
The India A team had a successful UK tour. The U19 boys are doing well. How important is it to see the second and third tier of Indian cricket rolling smoothly?
It definitely augurs well for the overall health of Indian cricket. The India A side is the immediate feeder line for the senior side. The boys playing there know that they are close to getting into the senior side. The U19 is a start and the boys will realize there are a lot more hurdles for them to cross. The next goal for them is to transcend to the senior level and keep performing there consistently. By virtue of their performance at the first-class level, they can get into the A side. There is no good in going gung-ho once a few boys do well at the U19 level as they still have a lot to achieve and this is just the start of their journey. Both the rungs have different functions and both have different objectives.
With both the India A and India U19 teams doing well, it is definitely a reflection of the strong structure of Indian cricket. The BCCI needs to be appreciated. It is also a concerted effort of the selectors, coaches and a lot of other coaches in the states as well. It is not just a result of a few individuals. Each person is vital to the system and each one deserves credit.