India’s Under-19 bunch might have got themselves the perfect result at the World Cup, but for head coach Rahul Dravid, their pursuit of excellence begins now. The onus to groom the youngsters for the rigours of higher-level cricket, according to Dravid, will rest as much on the players themselves as on the management going forward.
“The challenges and the hard work start from here,” Dravid said in Mumbai after the team arrived in India, trophy in tow. “The hard work begins for them and for us as well, as to how we manage these boys over the next few years. Even if not a lot of them go on to play for India, it can happen… it’s not easy to get into the Indian side. It depends on the number of players who are performing – that makes it difficult to break in at times. If they go on to have successful first-class careers, then from thereon it becomes a stepping stone for international cricket.”
Drawing an example from the title-winning batch of 2012, when India defeated Australia in Australia under the leadership of Unmukt Chand, Dravid pointed out that winning the World Cup alone will not be sufficient for the juniors to catapult themselves overnight into the national reckoning. He cited the instance of how only one player – medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma – went on to don national colours for the senior side, albeit only in two T20Is, whereas six of the members from the runners-up squad – Travis Head, Cameron Bancroft, Ashton Turner, Joel Paris, Ashton Agar and Gurinder Sandhu – represented Australia’s senior team subsequently.
“It was quite interesting for me… during the World Cup they showed re-runs of some of the earlier finals, including that of the 2012 final, ” Dravid said. “In fact, I was watching that re-run, and I went back and started checking a few things.
“It was interesting because the 2012 final featured India and Australia; the result of the final will tell you that India beat Australia. Six years down the line, while only one of those boys played a couple of one-day [T20I] games for India, four-five Australians have gone on to play for Australia. So, more of their guys have gone on to play first-class cricket. The debatable point is actually who won that final, if you look back six years later. So I think those are interesting chats and conversations to be had.”
While acknowledging the limelight the World Cup triumph has brought on these cricketers needs to be savoured and not shunned in an attempt to being overly protective of budding careers, Dravid said it’s imperative that the players internalise the lessons that come with the experience.
“The fact that they came to the [Mumbai] airport and saw the excitement, the noise and the people around them, I think that’s another experience [to remember]. Coming up and fronting up to you guys [the media] is another experience for them. So I’m glad they’ve had these opportunities to have these extra experiences because they won. So from my point of view that’s the plus point.
“Being known players, it’s not going to be that easy for them, at least for a short period of time [while] playing domestic cricket… you know somebody talking about this performance, highlighting this performance, the expectation that comes with this. I think it’s a good learning [experience] and a challenge.”