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Under-19 Cricket World Cup a temporary, short-term goal: Venkatesh Prasad

Venkatesh Prasad, former India pacer and chief of the junior selection panel, urges the Under-19 Cricket World Cup-winners and their mentors not to rush things in the anxiety to play for India

cricket Updated: Feb 10, 2018 08:19 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
New Delhi
Under-19 Cricket World Cup,ICC U-19 cricket world cup,indian u-19 cricket team
India defeated Australia by eight wickets in the final to win the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018 title.(PTI)

The teenage stars of India’s U-19 cricket team have made an impact with their resounding triumph at the World Cup last week. The talk about skipper Prithvi Shaw’s temperament or Kamlesh Nagarkoti’s pace makes one think Indian cricket’s future may already be knocking at the door of the present.

However, Venkatesh Prasad, chairman of BCCI’s junior selection committee, has a word of caution. He feels optimism should not turn into over-enthusiasm. It is still early days to push them into bigger battles in international cricket, he adds.

“If you fast-track the players and they are not able to handle the pressure, you might lose them. They start doubting their own ability then,” Prasad, a veteran of 33 Tests and 161 ODIs, says in an interview.

“Probably the team management, with (coach) Rahul Dravid being at the helm, will be in a better position to fast-track a few players or not. I am not very sure.”

India U-19 team’s fielding coach Abhay Sharma had recently said at least six from the World Cup winning squad have the potential to play for India A.

‘U-19 World Cup short-term goal’

Prasad, also a former India bowling coach, elaborated on the challenges one faces while graduating from junior cricket to the senior level.

“U-19 is not the be-all and end-all. Winning World Cup is a temporary and short-term goal. The long-term goal is to sustain the growth,” said Prasad, who was coach of the Indian team that finished runners-up at the 2006 U-19 World Cup.

“There are several factors which may stop an U-19 player from prospering at the senior level. One is the bigger challenge. More importantly, are they mentally strong or mature to handle that pressure? Fast-tracking is something we need to be very careful about. There might be lot of talent, potential, but if they are not mentally fit to cope with the pressure, then it’s important to climb the ladder slowly.

“The mental aspect of the game is the difference between the top cricketers and the junior cricketers.”

More promising players

Prasad says it is important for the young players to do justice to their talent by playing first-class cricket.

“You got to graduate to the next level. Play first-class matches for the respective state teams, go through the grind and eventually make it to the India team. That should be the main aim. This is just the beginning. The challenge starts from the next level,” he says.

The 48-year-old Prasad feels there are many players in the same age group who did not play the U-19 World Cup but have the potential to make it big.

“Being in the selection committee, I have seen a lot of potential in the current U-19 team. But there may be 10 more players outside who are as good as anybody in this U-19 team. I am sorry they had to be left out as we had a compulsion to make only a 15-man squad. If I had the power I would have included them too. But then not every U-19 player goes on to make it big at the next level.”

‘Don’t get carried away by IPL’

The Indian Premier League (IPL) auction happened during the World Cup and several U-19 players were picked up by the franchises.

“They should use the opportunity. They should not get carried away playing with top players. It’s easier said than done. Their parents, state coaches should keep on making them aware of the challenges. What is important is to be focused and committed. Look at the larger picture, and that is playing for the nation,” he says.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 23:29 IST