When India’s junior national selectors picked the team for the two four-day matches against England A, not a single member from the limited-overs squad was included. In a radical move, the 15-member squad was completely fresh. Rahul Dravid, India’s under-19 coach, admits that it was done intentionally to not only create a larger pool of players, but also allow more chances to those who had been doing well in the domestic circuit and will be ineligible to play the next Under-19 World Cup.
“While we thought we will focus on the one-day with the guys that are eligible for the World Cup, there are boys who had played a whole Under-19 season this year and performed but there was no international cricket for them,” Dravid told bcci.tv on Friday (February 10). “We saw four-day games as an opportunity for those boys to represent the India under-19. It is a big thing at that age. “They have all done well in the domestic competition, which is something that selectors wanted to reward and this was probably the only opportunity that we could give to them. I am glad that we will have a new bunch of boys in Nagpur that they get a chance to represent India and hopefully learn a few things. And at the end of series, you can say that you have given 40-41 U-19 kids an opportunity at this level and what more can you ask for?”
Dravid has carried forward his policy of squad rotation, a philosophy he had followed during his captaincy days, even in his coaching tenure with the Under-19 and the A team. He has been of the view that it is important to develop players at this stage rather than winning trophies. “You try and explain to them the concept that we are a squad and it is about everyone in the team,” he explained. “It is about their development and growth as players. I think they understand that. The worst thing that can happen to you at this age is that you go on tours and you don’t get to play any cricket; that’s the most demoralising thing.
“So, there is an effort to try and get a lot more boys involved. In a sense, it (rotation) builds healthy competition; lets everyone know that they cannot take their places for granted. In the future, the opportunities that they get, more than I would say selection will be based on their performances.” Dravid said that even in the two four-day games against the touring English side, they will try to give all the 15 players in the squad a chance to play at least once. He also added that much like the limited-overs side, even the side for the four-dayers will look to play positive and attacking cricket. “There are 15 players selected for two matches; we will try and give everyone an opportunity in that if we can. We will have to go and assess that as we get there. It is red ball cricket so we will have to get used to that. Those boys have been playing the red-ball cricket. “They have been at the camp in the NCA for a week. I am sure that (WV) Raman and (Narendra) Hirwani at the NCA would have done a really good job with the boys over the last few days,” he added.