India Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid‘s aim is to see a few of the World Cup-bound players included in the A team within the next six to eight months.
“The World Cup is an exciting challenge and provides a good opportunity for all these guys. There is a process now in place in Indian cricket: U-19 cricket to first-class cricket and then to India A and then the India national team, when the opportunity arrives,” Dravid said before the U-19 team left for New Zealand.
“I have been talking to these players about other formats as well. If they can make it to the India A team in six-eight months, it will be great. We see this [World Cup] as a stepping stone.”
The current India U-19 captain, Prithvi Shaw, has already played for the India A team during warm-up games against touring New Zealanders in October this year.
Dravid refused to predict who among the current batch has the potential to make it big at the senior level. “I have learnt a lot in these years as coach of the U-19 and A teams. These boys are from a different generation and their thinking is different. They have to adapt to all three formats. It’s a huge challenge. The game has changed a lot.
“I can’t say who can go on and make it or who cannot. All of them have the potential to play for their state and India in future.”
On India’s chances in the upcoming global event in New Zealand, which starts on January 13, Dravid exuded confidence. The key would be adjusting to the conditions quickly, he said. “The conditions would provide a unique challenge in that no one in the team has played in New Zealand before. The key would be in adapting to the conditions well. We have tried to replicate the conditions in the Bangalore camp to the extent possible but it’s not possible to do it completely.”
The squad is set to leave for New Zealand on Thursday morning. Three-time previous champions India, who finished runners-up in the previous edition, are in Group B alongside Australia, Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea.
The squad has a few players – like captain Shaw of Mumbai, Shubman Gill of Punjab, Himanshu Rana of Haryana, Ishan Porel of Bengal – who have been playing first-class cricket, which the coach termed as a plus for the side.
“It’s always good to have players in team with some first-class cricket experience. This team too has a few. The team is similar to the one we had the last time, with only one major difference – that in the previous team there were people with more experience of having played the U-19 World Cup.
“This team too has a good pace attack, good spin bowlers and a good batting unit like the last one.”
Shaw was happy to have practice games to help the team get into the groove. “We are going to play a few practice games before the World Cup. That will help us. Playing first-class cricket will be of help to me in the World Cup,” Shaw, who already has five first-class hundreds to his credit, said.
“It’s a great opportunity and as captain I want to take the whole team with me. Everyone in the team knows his role. I want to win the World Cup.”