Rahul Dravid, the coach of the victorious U-19 World Cup team, felt that the side did not play their No. 1 game while addressing the media after they landed in Mumbai on Monday (February 5).
“Some of the boys did come to me and say that the final felt very different over the other games and I told I don’t think we won our No. 1 game in the final. I think we played it in the semifinal and the quarterfinal, but we got the result that we needed,” said Dravid when asked about how the mood in the camp was after they notched an eight-wicket win over Australia on Saturday.
Throughout the press conference, one of the terms that Dravid emphasised on was the process of shaping the players and how important it was to keep upping the level of developing them into better cricketers.
“I think, just the whole preparation and planning that has gone into, I won’t say necessarily this World Cup, but over the last 14-16 months is a good process that we put in place and like everything else you have to keep refining it, getting better at it and keep improving on that process,” said the former India skipper.
And the end result too was something that satisfied Dravid. India were unbeaten throughout the league stage.
“I am really happy for these 15 boys who get to wear a World Cup medal and get to win it because it’s been hard work, there have been sacrifices by a lot of them, and just the way that they played, the way they gelled as a unit, the quality of cricket that they played, the way they executed plans even under pressure. In games that we found pressure, there have always been players who stood up and delivered, these are the kind of things that give you a lot of satisfaction,” he opined.
Asked about how U-19 cricket in India evolved, Dravid highlighted the exposure that the young players were given so that they could be better prepared. “You can’t even compare generations. I was no World Cup winner, I was playing U-19 and I played only one series. I remember we were playing two Test matches against a visiting NZ team that came here.
He continued: “Compared to this, the quality of cricket that these boys play, the quantity of cricket they play is incomparable. The kind of support staff, the kind of professionalism and help that these boys have got is much better than honestly what I got when I played for India, without a doubt. So, that’s how far things have changed and there is no doubt they are extremely fit, they are aggressive and they play a positive brand of cricket. It’s more worldly-wise in a lot of ways than I think we were. They’re a lot more confident as well, and I think that’s really good signs of exposure and opportunity that they have been given.”
Prithvi Shaw, the winning captain, seconded the coach’s opinion on experience and exposure that played a key role in their successful campaign. “I think it’s all about the experience. From when I started playing school level cricket as a seven or eight-year-old, my coaches from school level to now Rahul Dravid sir. All those experiences make a difference to your career, batting especially.”
While Dravid explained that he had everything he wanted to manage the 15 boys during the World Cup, he also put forth his view on how they could be managed after the tournament.
“I think the challenges and the hard work really start from here,” he said. “It’s just a question of them being managed carefully, and managing themselves, and learning how to deal with the pressure and the expectations that are going to come now being champions, being known players, it’s not going to be easy for them at least for a short period of time to play domestic cricket without somebody talking about this performance or highlighting this performance.”
He also went on to add that not all players would necessarily make it to the big league and stressed on the need to play more domestic cricket. “Playing their domestic cricket well will be the stepping stone to making it to international cricket,” he said.
While there are a few players who were eligible to be a part of the U-19 squad again, Dravid felt that the players by then would be too good at the level if they put up with consistent performances in domestic cricket.
“My wish is for them to play at that level even if they have a couple of tough years and they fail, I think they’ll be better off for it than coming here and playing at the Under-19 level which they clearly are too good for. That’s not my decision, that’s my view,” he remarked.