Coach Dravid hails U-19 team after tri-series final triumph over Bangladesh
Kolkata: India's colts, late off the blocks in their preparations for next year's Under-19 World Cup, suggested all's well by sailing to the tri-series triumph here. A seven-wicket drubbing of Bangladesh in yesterday's final at the Jadavpur University's Salt Lake campus capped a cruise in a tournament that also had Afghanistan.
Man of the match Sarfaraz Khan (left) and man of the series Rishab Pant (right) pose with coach Rahul Dravid yesterday. Pic/PTI
Former Team India skipper Rahul Dravid, entrusted with the job of getting the boys battle-ready for the big bash in Bangladesh in January-February, would surely be looking for sterner tests now that confidence and the core of the team are emerging.
That challenge will come as early as next week in Sri Lanka, where India and England will be visiting teams in another triangular competition. If the tri-series here was about getting a good look at the 20 probables (all but two played a minimum of two matches under the watchful eyes of Dravid and BCCI's junior selection committee), the one at the island nation should provide a better idea of the team's preparedness. Dravid is happy with the gains from the Kolkata outing.
"This has been a very good tournament for us. We have not just begun our preparations for the World Cup, but are very close to identifying the core (of the team)," he said soon after Ricky Bhui and his teammates received the winners' trophy.
'Willingness to learn'
"Best thing about this group is the attitude and the willingness to learn," Dravid added, happy that his wards had to negotiate a few roughs too in the tournament. Yesterday, suddenly reduced to 42 for 3 in a chase of 117, the Indians found their man in Sarfaraz Khan, the Mumbai Ranji batsman who moved to UP this season. One of only three players here from the 2014 World Cup squad, Sarfaraz finally came into his own with an unbeaten 27-ball 59 that made it a walk in the park in the end.
Man of the series Rishabh Pant, another left-hander, emerged as India's batting mainstay with 282 runs from four outings. It included the only century of the tournament and a couple of half-centuries. His opening par ner, 16-year-old Washington Sundar, is the calming influence up the order.
Avesh Khan was clearly the pick of the medium-pacers while the likes of Zeeshan Ansari, Mahipal Lomror and Mayank Dagar showed that India have the men to make an impact on the slow turners the team is likely to encounter in Bangladesh. "Having played a World Cup, I was carrying this baggage of being one of the experienced guys in the team. Today, as Dravid Sir suggested, I shugged off all that and played my natural game and it paid off," gushed Sarfaraz.
Over the 10 days of the tournament, the youngsters have repeatedly acknowledged Dravid's gentle persuation and patience as being a key to their success. Now for the bigger challenges.