It’s the week leading up to the IPL auction and as many as nine India Under-19 players currently at the World Cup in New Zealand are among 578 cricketers who will go under the hammer. That they have filtered through to the final list from an initial pool off 1122 players signifies interest from the franchises. But with the Under-19 World Cup in the knockout stage, India coach Rahul Dravid doesn’t want his boys to look beyond their immediate challenge: Bangladesh in the quarter-final.
Among those in the auction pool from the current batch are captain Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Himanshu Rana, Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Arshdeep Singh and Harvik Desai.
“There’s no point hiding from the fact that it is there. It is around the corner,” Dravid said of the auction that will be held in Bengaluru this weekend. “There’s no point living in the bubble and pretending it doesn’t exist. We do discuss it. We’ve spoken about what their focus should be and what their long-term goals are as compared to their short-term goals.”
Following the conclusion of the Under-19 Challenger Trophy in November in Mumbai, a number of players were invited by Mumbai Indians for selection trials, only to be called back by the team management, keeping in mind their immediate priorities of playing in a World Cup. The team management was mindful of “players being distracted” by a number of other aspects like signing bat sponsorships and being acquired by talent management companies, in the build up to the tournament.
With the auction dynamics being as they are, there is a possibility that a number of players could be auctioned for the kind of money they are yet to see. There is also a flipside, having to deal with a group of young players who might go unsold. Dravid, though, has prior experience of this, during the 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh, and has passed on a clear message: ‘One or two auctions won’t make or break players.’
“The auction is not something the boys can control,” Dravid said. “One or two auctions won’t really have a long-term impact on their careers. There is an auction every year, but not every year will they have an opportunity to play for India in possibly a World Cup semi-final. That doesn’t come very often.”
Dravid, who has been part of six auctions as a player and four as part of the management group, was aware of the challenges of handling a bunch of aspiring professionals who are still dealing with being in the limelight. For many, playing in the ongoing World Cup is their first experience of being on global television. Dravid, though, insisted the team was focused and had their priorities sorted.
“I don’t feel worried about it. I think this group of guys are really focused on playing good cricket here,” he said. “I like the energy and the spirit in this team. We’ve been here for three weeks and we couldn’t have asked for better preparation from the boys. They’ve been superb. We talked about the auction once and we said let’s keep that out of our minds.
“We’re not thinking past the next game against Bangladesh. We lost to them in the Asia Cup. We are aware of the fact that Bangladesh is a good team. We haven’t even looked at the rest of the draw. The focus is right now on doing well against Bangladesh. We had a week off, that was actually part of the challenge, managing at this age, boys are keen to play, at this age a week off can be a long time. So we had a day off and they got out a bit and relaxed. Today had a light session. Sometimes it’s just a question of hoping they don’t get too overexcited.”