SANDIPAN BANERJEE | 5 FEBRUARY, 2018
Cometh the Champions, Cometh the Mentor
“One of the things about me coaching this team is that it's a bit embarrassing at times. I tend to get a lot of focus and attention.”
During India Under-19’s victorious campaign in New Zealand, head-coach Rahul Dravid, on numerous occasions had urged the media not to focus on him. Even after beating the Australian colts in the final and achieving his first major success as a coach, the former India skipper tried avoiding the cameras as much as he could. But the limelight did find the man, who has sacrificed a lot, both personally and financially to work relentlessly with these youngsters in order to maintain the supply-chain of Indian cricket.
Yes, Prithvi Shaw and Co. deserve all the credit for doing the job on the field. But at the Under-19 level coaches do play a vital role. And having a legend like Dravid in the dressing room has been probably the best thing to happen for these future stars of Indian cricket. Undoubtedly, the tournament and the time they have spent alongside their ‘Dravid sir’ is the best learning curve for the each and every member of this victorious Indian squad.
Manjot Kalra, the left-handed opener, who scored an unbeaten 101 during India’s successful run-chase in the final, gave us some of the insights of how Dravid mentored these boys ahead of the grand finale and how he did not let the team be complacent.
"Dravid sir told us how a casual dismissal in the Under-19 final [against West Indies] in 2016 proved to be a turning point. Rishabh Pant walked out of the crease and was stumped, I think. He told us how he didn't want us to repeat those kinds of mistakes and play with the same seriousness that we have shown all tournament," Kalra told ESPNCricinfo.
It was just not this tournament, Dravid was mentoring these group of players for the past 12 months, at least. He handpicked these boys from the domestic age-group tournaments, trained them at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and prepared them for the big stage along with his support staffs.
Apart from Shaw, these were more or less the same players who were in the squad when India’s campaign failed miserably in the last Youth Asia Cup in Malaysia. Even this team lost to minnows like Nepal and Bangladesh. Following such a dismal show, as a coach, Dravid could have taken the harsh call and opted for new faces for this Youth World Cup. Instead, he decided to back the same lot of players and now the result is in front of everyone — India, the undefeated champion of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2019.
But Dravid, being Dravid, prefers to take no credit. In fact, he calls for a ‘bigger praise’ for the support staffs like bowling coach Paras Mhambrey, fielding coach Abhay Sharma, the strength and conditioning trainer Anand Date, and Yogesh, the physio.
"We have had a few injuries right through the year," Dravid mentioned. "The way they've [the support staffs] managed these injuries and handled players has been thoroughly professional. I've been around for a long time and seen how professional athletes are managed. These under-19 boys got the best professional help from the current team of physios and trainers here [in New Zealand] and at the NCA."
However, according to the newly imposed rules by BCCI (suggested by Dravid only), these boys won’t feature in another Under-19 World Cup, even if they are eligible, age wise. Now, after achieving this grand success they will go back to domestic cricket and prepare themselves for the bigger stage, i.e. international cricket. Whereas ‘Dravid sir’ on the other hand, will look for a fresh lot of players for the next edition of the tournament.