The BCCI junior selection committee chairman S Sharath is delighted after India under-19 clinched the colts World Cup in West Indies. Sharath and his team had only convened a few months ago to pick the Indian team for the Junior World Cup and the pandemic made things difficult. In a chat with The Indian Express, the former Tamil Nadu player spoke on various topics
It’s only been a few months since you took over as chairman of selectors, can you tell us how you decided to go about the process?
When Rahul was coach at the NCA, we had a meeting with him and we decided the roadmap of how to go about it. We decided to first have a pool of players and for that we have to go and see matches across the country. After the Vinoo Mankad tournament, we picked 90 players, we divided them into six teams and had matches thereafter.
What were the challenges as a selector especially in the time of Covid where we don’t know what happens ahead?
In the first place credit should go to the BCCI for conducting a tournament. In the last two years there was no cricket due to the pandemic, I spoke to the players and they told us how frustrating it was to sit at home. No school, no college, no ground, it is an extraordinary situation. For us also we needed to see as many matches as we could to pick players because we didn’t know what will happen ahead. It was mentally taxing for everyone and all felt refreshed when the boys came and played cricket. We saw new talent and some we saw were ready, ready for first class cricket. We still have good players, who are not in the squad because there was so much talent available.
How did identification of the player happen?
We decided to pick two players for each slot and our focus was more on picking all-rounders. There could be players who didn’t do well in league games like in Vinoo Mankad trophy but we backed our instinct and picked them in the Challenger Series. Players like Harnoor Singh didn’t do well in league games but we all felt he had it in him and he can do well in crunch situations, so he was picked. He did well in Challengers and he scored three hundreds in a row. Same with Ankrish Raghuvanshi, he scored once but we felt he is good, so we picked him. Same with Nishant Sindhu, he won the Vinoo Mankad and was a utility player.
Is there any reason you picked Yash Dhull as the captain instead of Sandhu, whose team won the Vinoo Mankad Trophy?
The thing with Nishant is that we have Kaushal Tambe, who too is an all-rounder, we wanted someone who can look after a team. Can communicate with everyone. Nishant is a good player but what we felt is that the all-rounder’s plate is already full and sometimes, they couldn’t think on a macro level. As Dhull is a batsman, a Delhi boy and a street-smart cricketer, we felt he is our best bet.
The best part of this under-19 team is it had a good bowling unit and more all-rounders?
Yes, we wanted to give options to the captain and team management, Like Bawa is a bit deceptive, Rajvardhan Hangargekar bowls quick and he hits the deck hard. Same with spinners, all are different. The West Indies is near the Ocean, so breeze plays a vital part, two new balls will be used, so swing will come into play. We tried to cover each area. We wanted multi-dimensional players, players who can bat till number 10. We couldn’t find a decent leg-spinner, so we picked a left-arm spinner to cover up.
How was your reaction when you were told five players tested positive?
I was devastated, the kids are not in India. No one knows how Covid will react to these kids. These kids are under quarantine, like a house arrest. I was told a day before to pray that no one else should come positive because this India under 19 team had only eleven players left and they will play against Ireland next day. West Indies is not near Kochi, so we didn’t know what to do. I will give more weightage to the Ireland game, we won half our battle there itself. It was a game where both the openers batted very well. Credit should go to support staff and BCCI the way they handled the issue so smoothly.
Your reaction about the final?
I can see that each one of them wanted to win the game on their own. I felt Rasheed played a bad shot, had he not, we would have finished it early. These boys are just 19, they will learn as they play more. I still feel for me the Ireland game was very crucial, I saw coaches running into the ground and serving drinks.
What piece of advice will you offer to these players?
Be in the present, don’t get into anxiety mode. Be focussed on how you are going to do well for your state team in Ranji Trophy. The bigger challenge starts now for these boys. They will now get picked ahead in senior or Indian teams because of their domestic performance and not because of India under-19 performance. These boys will sail in the ocean from the lake. Ranji Trophy can be ruthless. Be ready to grind. All those who played for India after under-19 success they all grind hard in domestic cricket. At this age it’s very easy to get excited about things. They will walk with sun-glasses now, IPL will come, they will change as a person. However, ultimately they will be judged only by their first class cricket.