India U-19 coach Rahul Dravid on Wednesday stated that he wanted to widen the pool of the junior players available for the World Cup next year. He added that he’ll work on the same by rotating the squad regardless of the outcome of a match or series.
“This is really a U-18 team to be honest. We are playing slightly younger boys who are all eligible for the next World Cup in February,” Dravid said. “So it’s a bit of identifying, giving opportunities and building the team. The boys are a bit inexperienced and since they’re around U-18, some of them haven’t even played a great bit of U-19 cricket for their home states as well.”
There had been six changes made to the team that beat England U-19 by 129 runs at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. The only ones to be retained in the squad from the 1st ODI were Prithvi Shaw, Himanshu Rana, Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma and Kamlesh Nagarkoti.
“People like Shreyas Iyer and Karun Nair haven’t really been superstars in U-19 cricket. They were in and around the fringes which means you really need to broaden the group. It’s impossible to predict that this is the fifteen that’s really going to make it,” Dravid said.
Mumbai cricket’s unique quality
He also lauded the cricketing fraternity in Mumbai, stating that they were the only group to constantly stay in touch with him regarding their players’ form and future.
“Credit to Mumbai cricket who actually had the courage to play a 17-18 year-old boy (in the Ranji Trophy),” he said. “I have been in this job for close to 16-18 months and the only people to actually call me up and ask me about their players are Bombay guys. Last year as well they wanted to know lot about Arman (Jaffer) and Prithvi (Shaw). So I guess in a sense it tells you why Bombay is so successful.”
Exposure to pace and bounce
Dravid further elaborated on his plans regarding the team and said he wanted the boys to have a fair amount of exposure on pace and bounce before heading to the World Cup.
“We have told the groundsmen to leave as much grass as possible to get some pace and bounce. From our perspective, we want to play on wickets like this which has bounce and pace. That’s the real challenge for us. Also, with the (U-19) World Cup in New Zealand in a year’s time, the more we play on wickets like these it gives selectors and us an idea about some of the players and gives them an idea on what they need to improve on. It’s better to get those lessons now than to get them in December next year and not have enough time to prepare for it.”
He also credited the efforts put up by the team after Rajesh Sawant, the team’s trainer, died on Sunday. “It was a tough couple of days… I have never experienced like that; credit to these boys. I told them that to come out and play that next day was an absolute credit to them. They came out and played in spite of so many thoughts going in the mind… I don’t think many of them slept that night. I still don’t know how to react; it’s one of the tough ones you know. All we can do is hope his soul rests in peace.”