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India A and U19s doing well is a reflection of our strong system: WV Raman

The India U19 Head Coach explains his philosophy as he grooms youngsters and prepares them for bigger battles ahead

The start of a new season might be some time away but Indian cricket keeps rolling even in the off-season. Back after a successful UK tour, the India A boys are preparing for the two bilateral and a quadrangular series while the U19 boys are in Sri Lanka and getting ready for a dose of white ball action.

The U19s just wrapped up the four-day format winning the two-match series 2-0. The team led by Anuj Rawat won the first Youth Test in Colombo by an innings and 21 runs and the second in Hambantota by an innings and 147 runs.

We caught up with Mr WV Raman, former India batsman and the Head Coach of the India U19 team that is in Sri Lanka to know the kind of work that goes behind the scenes in preparing the future stars.

Two four-day games and India U19 won both the matches by an innings. How pleased are you with this performance?

It is good to see these boys perform well in the four-day version. These boys need to realize that they can hone their skills and develop the right qualities that are required by doing well in the four-day games. The boys showed application and a lot of temperament, which is very crucial at this stage. One should also appreciate the system we have in domestic cricket. These boys get to play the longer format in the BCCI tournaments. It’s a question of opportunities and a case for these boys making good use of the opportunities.

With the U19 World Cup taking place every two years, the focus always remains on the 50-over game. How important is to have even the youngsters play the longest format of the game?

The biannual World Cup is a very important tournament and also a star attraction for these boys, as they like to play the shorter format. It is equally important to play the longer format, as it is there that your temperament; mental toughness and skills are tested. These boys need to play the longer format more as you see that cricketers who succeed in the longer format find it easier to adapt to the shorter format. It is vital that when they start their career, they play the longer format too.

You very well know how to score a triple century. What was your advice to Pavan Shah during the knock and particularly after he was run out on 282?

The way this question is framed, it has made a Bradman out of me and I think it is a bit embarrassing (laughs). The way Pavan Shah constructed his innings and the way he played, there was not much I needed to tell him. Not every day in your life you get close to a triple century and once he got out on 282, he was disappointed. I tried to tell him that it was rather unfortunate. It was really disappointing for the kid, as he got run-out of all dismissals. The way he was batting, he never looked like getting out. The way he played that innings is an indication of his ability to play long innings. He has the hunger to play long innings. I am sure in the future, he will grab his opportunities and go on to make a triple century. When somebody does it at this stage, he knows how to get there and the next time he gets close to a landmark, he will achieve it.

At NCA, you deal with the seniors as well as junior players. But with the U19 team, it must be very different. What are the aspects of the game that you focus on? What is your coaching philosophy for these youngsters?

At the U19 level, you expect them to make a few mistakes due to their inexperience. It is the age where they can make mistakes and they can learn from their mistakes. It is completely different from handling a senior side where you would expect a certain kind of efficiency from individuals as well as the team.

At the U19 level it is important to ease the pressure off them and make them realize that when they are starting their careers, it is very normal to make mistakes. You try and encourage them to be their own selves and not try and make them do things that are completely alien to them and not in their framework of cricket. They have got to develop their natural style and try and do the things, the way they do. My philosophy with the boys is to tell them to enjoy the game and not to be shy of making mistakes. Nobody has played this game without making mistakes. I tell them to not keep repeating their mistakes and learn as quickly as possible.

The India A team had a successful UK tour. The U19 boys are doing well. How important is it to see the second and third tier of Indian cricket rolling smoothly?

It definitely augurs well for the overall health of Indian cricket. The India A side is the immediate feeder line for the senior side. The boys playing there know that they are close to getting into the senior side. The U19 is a start and the boys will realize there are a lot more hurdles for them to cross. The next goal for them is to transcend to the senior level and keep performing there consistently. By virtue of their performance at the first-class level, they can get into the A side. There is no good in going gung-ho once a few boys do well at the U19 level as they still have a lot to achieve and this is just the start of their journey. Both the rungs have different functions and both have different objectives.

With both the India A and India U19 teams doing well, it is definitely a reflection of the strong structure of Indian cricket. The BCCI needs to be appreciated. It is also a concerted effort of the selectors, coaches and a lot of other coaches in the states as well. It is not just a result of a few individuals. Each person is vital to the system and each one deserves credit.

BCCI Staff

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The positivity in the Indian dressing room is infectious – Pant

The youngster speaks about the confidence he’s garnered from the India A stint, maiden Test call-up and his keenness to learn more.

The Indian Premier League has been a turning ground for a lot of youngsters keen to stage their talent and hone their skills. It’s been a platform that has given the senior men’s cricket team, talented candidates who have proved their mettle at the big stage.

Rishabh Pant too grabbed eye-balls this season, when he amassed 684 runs for Delhi Daredevils and was a lone ranger for the team in terms of scoring quick runs.

The 20-year old youngster, after cementing his spot in the list A games for his state, is now on course to grab a spot in the senior men’s team. After having made his T20 debut last year, Pant was recently named in the Test squad for India against England as an understudy to Dinesh Karthik. He showed great potential with red ball cricket against England Lions at Worcester and scored a fighting half-century in an otherwise poor show by India A. His 58 failed to save India A the blushes, but his inclusion in the Test side for the first time promises a productive season for the young gun.

Cricket pundits have been of the view that, if given an opportunity, Pant has the potential to be as dangerous as Adam Gilchrist batting at No 6 and 7 for India.

India ‘A’ and U-19 coach, Rahul Dravid too was all praise for Pant and iterated that, “He is a very talented player. He showed in three or four innings that he was willing to bat differently. We all know the way he bats. Even in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season when he got over to 900 runs his S/R was 100 plus and we have seen him bat similarly in the IPL as well.

He has the temperament and skills to bat differently. He is always going to be an attacking player but reading of the situation when you are playing red ball cricket is required. We are glad he has been picked into the national team and I hope he takes this maturity into the national team and hopefully builds from thereon.”

We at BCCI.TV caught up with the youngster and found out about his performances, preparations and keenness to learn from this Indian dressing room.


What was your first reaction when you heard about your inclusion in the Indian Test squad?

It was a great feeling to hear that I had been included in the Indian Test squad. I always wanted to be a part of the Indian Test squad and it was more like a dream come true for me. It was an amazing feeling, not only for me but also for my family and my coach Tarek Sinha sir, who helped me understand the game very early in my life. He has always wanted me to play Test cricket for India and when I got the call, he was very happy and proud and I enjoyed that moment.

You had a great run of form in the IPL, followed by your inclusion in the India A squad for one-day fixtures and then you were also included in the four-day match too. Tell us what is the difference in preparation when it comes to white ball and red ball cricket.

I reckon there isn’t too much difference, but it has got more to do with shot selection. In red ball cricket, with the field placements, you can look around; take your time, because you have five days to play. Whereas in limited overs cricket you have limited number of balls to play and score.

I have so far enjoyed my preparation with red ball cricket. The duke ball swings a lot when you’re here in England and initially when I started playing here with India A, I realized that the swing will come a lot into play in these conditions.

The cricket pundits have been comparing you with the legendary Adam Gilchrist. Thoughts?

I always see everything as an opportunity coming my way. Especially as a wicket-keeper batsman in India, wherein, there aren’t too many options for the spot. Therefore, whatever opportunity I get, I try and optimize it.

Adam Gilchrist has been my idol when it comes to keeping wickets and I used to watch him all the time as a youngster. But, at this moment, I’m learning a lot from people around me like Rahul Dravid Sir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and I try and improve my game every day.

How was your experience with the India A, especially with Rahul Dravid around?

The only thing he always tells me is that you need to be patient about everything, be it on the field or off it. Also, how I need to work harder on my game when it comes to red ball cricket since I’m a positive batsman, but at times you need to play to the situation. See the pace of the game and change your game accordingly. These have been my learning from him wherein he has helped me a lot.

Learning from the Indian dressing room so far?

Every time I come to the Indian dressing room, there is one thing that has always stood out for me. It is the positivity in the dressing room. Everyone is supporting and backing each other, which is the most important factor about this Indian dressing room. And, like always, whenever I needed any support from Mahi bhai, I used to ask him. From my IPL contract to my wicket-keeping, he’s advised me on everything.

He’s always told me that when it comes to wicket-keeping, your hands and head is important, the body balance can come into play later, but the key is the hands and head coordination. I worked on what he told me and it has helped me a lot.

You’ve spent a lot of time in England and this is going to be a huge benefit. Tell us about those knock against England Lions and the second four-day game against West India A and the confidence you gathered from it?

Whenever I walk into bat, I go with the mindset of what the team needs from me. In the game against West Indies A, there was a situation wherein I had to be more patient because there were enough overs and therefore I took my time and got India home.

Also, in the game against England Lions, India A were not in a good position. We had lost four to five wickets and Ajju bhaiya (Ajinkya Rahane) and I were batting and I had to play according to the situation. So, I thought I’m going to take my own time and get set because in red ball cricket that’s what you do – you need to take your own time and play as per the situation.

Rajlaxmi Arora
Rajlaxmi Arora

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