Here's why Venkatesh Prasad is grateful to BCCI
Chairman of junior selectors Venkatesh Prasad grateful to Board for agreeing to various suggestions that boosted India's under-19 World Cup campaign
India wicketkeeper Harvik Desai and Anukul Roy celebrate an Aussie wicket during the U-19 World Cup final in NZ on Saturday. Pic/PTI
While the players and coaching staff deservedly lapped up the accolades after India crushed Australia in the final of the under-19 ICC World Cup at Bay Oval in New Zealand on Saturday, the three-member junior selection committee headed by Venkatesh Prasad also played a crucial role in the unprecedented feat of four U-19 World Cup wins. To arrive at the best for India's 15-member squad, Prasad & Co tried out close to 60 players in the process. The former India pacer opened up to mid-day on the planning and preparation for the big event.
Excerpts from an interview:
What has been India's biggest takeaway?
It's a complete team effort. It would be very difficult for me to pinpoint one or two guys. Of course, it was very heartening to see our fast bowlers touch 145kmph. It took me by surprise when I saw their pace. They have done well and made themselves proud. There are a couple of good fast bowlers for the future.
Such a clinical effort would have been quite pleasing…
Absolutely. We were the first team to reach New Zealand = 15 to 20 days before the tournament started. We got to play a few practice matches against the district teams, U-19s and then got into the World Cup. We got the time to acclimatise to the pitches and conditions. That helped the team immensely.
Can you throw some light on the preparations?
Our selection committee came on board just when Rahul (Dravid) took over as coach. We have a very good understanding. Whatever we suggested, the Board was ready to implement. I suggested that the U-19 Vinoo Mankad Trophy be played with coloured clothing and the white ball which was not the case earlier. It was introduced this time by the BCCI. Those are the minor changes that did wonders. It was the first step to prepare them mentally because that is how one-dayers at the international level are played. I also suggested a change in the format of the U-16 tournaments where they should simply follow the U-19 structure. It is also important to play the U-16 tournaments on seaming tracks because Indian batsmen are always found wanting on seaming pitches overseas.
What was the idea behind trying out close to 60 players?
We wanted to keep everyone's hopes alive; wanted to make sure that they are all equally important and are part of this framework. That would have given them the required motivation to continue their good work. We didn't want to have just a 25-player pool, we wanted to give opportunities to as many players as possible to showcase their talent. I want to thank the Board for hearing us out and organise tournaments and matches against various foreign teams. That gave the boys the experience and confidence to play on the global stage.
So, what next for these under-19 stars?
It is important for them to be grounded and stay humble. They should be focused on the process rather than think about getting into the Indian Premier League. I don't think they could have asked for anyone better than Rahul Dravid. I just hope they asked him enough questions.
How difficult was it for a three-member selection committee as against a five-man panel?
With just three selectors, we had to travel the length and breadth of the country to identify the talent — not just based on bowling or batting, but fielding too. We had to find players who were two-dimensional. It was difficult, but we had to do a job. Rakesh Parikh, Gyanendra Pandey and I were travelling close to 20 days a month. It wasn't easy, but after getting the desired results, it is very satisfying.
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