Indian U19 team started their preparations for the upcoming ICC U19 World Cup in New Zealand, as they defeated South African U19 team in a practice match. India U19 coach Rahul Dravid said that the India U19 colts were ready for the challenges that await the team in the U19 World Cup.
Dravid said, "It's been good (the preparations). We started the process almost a year ago in terms of identifying a core group of 35-40 kids that we wanted to give exposure to. We've had a few series, a couple of Asia Cups where we've had the opportunity to see a large group of talent, and just in the build up to this tournament as well they've been playing a lot of domestic Under 19 cricket as well.”
"We've been here for a week before the start of the tournament, played three good games against Central Districts. We feel happy and we feel that we've given the boys enough exposure and opportunities to grow," he was quoted as saying by ICC's official website.
Rahul Dravid says he missed not being part of the U19 World Cup as there was a 10 year gap in the first event in 1988 and the next edition in 1998. Though Dravid played for the Indian U19 team in various games, he rues that he couldn’t play in the U19 World Cup.
"We never played this tournament in my day! After 1988 they didn't hold the tournament for 10 years, so I've no exposure of playing and being part of this tournament. I tell a lot of these boys that I think it's a terrific opportunity for them to be a part of this tournament. Irrespective of if we win or lose, I think just to be part of it and experience it all is something that's invaluable for them at this stage in their careers," he said.
Dravid said that this was a very good opportunity for the young players to evolve their games. "They are really at an exciting age in their careers, the opportunities ahead of them are exciting and the future for them is bright, but there's also a lot of uncertainty and doubt at this kind of age,” said Dravid.
“So a lot of it is about having conversations around the mental side of the game, sharing some of my experiences of what it felt like to be a young cricketer at this stage of my career, and I think that's the part that I find quite exciting, because having been through some of that myself it's nice for me to just to share my experiences with them and some of the things that I've learned over the last 20-25 years. There is technical advice, and that's a process as well, we have that in our camps and at various stages throughout the year," he added.
Talking about India’s final’s loss in the 2016 edition in Bangladesh, Dravid said, "I think just the experience of playing in Bangladesh is from our perspective more important than the actual winning and losing. Yes it would have been nice to win and we played very good cricket until then and had a disappointing final, but the West Indies played better than us and deserved to win, and there's no shame in that. But I think we see this as more than just that.”
"From our perspective while it would be nice to win I think the more matches we play in these conditions, and outside of the subcontinent itself, is a rare opportunity for a lot of these kids. I think what we learn out of this tournament is invaluable whether we win or lose."
Talking about his role in the developing the game for the youngsters, Dravid said, "My job is to look after India Under 19s and also India A, and we see that as a really good pathway process in terms of some of these boys hopefully going on to represent India A in a few years time. It's an exciting age to be a part of and I've really enjoyed being part of it and just putting some structures in place and ensuring that we give enough opportunities to a lot of young players at this age.”
Talking about the India U19 team’s preparation for the upcoming ICC U19 World Cup, Dravid said, "We don't like to focus too much on the individuals. We believe we've got a very good squad together and the opportunities for us to play well as a team are there. We've been playing some very good cricket of late, so rather than focusing on individuals and naming a few people, at this age we really believe that every one of these kids is talented and they've got the ability to go on and do well in this tournament, and not only in this tournament but also to go on and play professional cricket and do well there.”
"I think the quicker you start learning about yourself and how you tick, and the quicker you start taking responsibility for the way you carry yourself as a professional cricketer both on and off the field, the better. If you want to be a successful cricketer you need to figure out yourself, both on and off the field," he concluded.