The Board of Control for Cricket in India will approve of coach Chandrakant Pandit’s approach with the junior team. He’s doing things by committees, something the Board is famous for. What Pandit has done, is empower the youngsters in the squad, forcing them to get used to taking responsibility and making decisions.
The players have been divided into committees. The transport committee’s job is to figure out how much time it will take to reach a practice or match venue and plan accordingly. The discipline committee ensures that people are dressed appropriately, either in kit or casual gear, and keeps time. The food committee, working with the trainer, plans team dinners, deciding what sort of food to eat, which restaurant to go to, and how much each member will contribute.
“Skills will improve, form will go up and down, but it’s important that they learn about themselves and the game,” explains Pandit. At the moment, with the players actively engaging their brains, cricket is almost taking care of itself.
On a day when five teams practiced at the indoor and outdoor facilities at Lincoln University, the advanced stage of the India team was obvious. The boys have played a lot more organised cricket than their counterparts and this shines through. Batsmen are sure of their technique, even if it is slightly unconventional. Bowlers set imaginary fields for batsmen in the nets and compete to deny runs scored.
While Ashok Meenaria, the captain, is certainly in charge, other leaders are shouldering responsibilities. Tall left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkhat makes for compelling viewing as he steams in and lets slip some genuine pace.
Sandeep Sharma appears to have a genuine feel for moving the ball, both in the air and off the pitch. Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh knows the value of every run scored off his bowling and displays remarkable control for one so young.
But it’s not bowlers that people in India come to watch. And there’s no shortage of talent in the batting department. Long limbed and supple at the crease and pleasingly correct in approach, K.L. Rahul opens the batting and has a powerhouse in Mayank Agarwal for company.
Mandeep Singh, at No. 3, exudes a bristling cockiness and confidence that goes perfectly with his fuzzy goatee and spiked hair. Harpreet Singh, from the small Madhya Pradesh town of Dalli Rajhara, adopts an uncomplicated approach and it’s clear that he can hit a long ball. And this is not a comprehensive list — there are others who have not had the chance to make an impact yet.
The talent in this group is unmistakable, and there’s every chance you’re going to see more of these boys. But the future can wait. For now, the under-19 World Cup is big enough to command the total attention of the group.