Mumbai, Jan 19: One of the key aspects that the former India captain Rahul Dravid is focused on as the coach of the national colts squad, which is set to take part in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, is the ability to rotate the strike.
"One of the things I had stressed on was the ability to rotate the strike. It takes a lot of pressure off you. I talked about it a lot to the players," said Dravid here today on the eve of the team's departure.
"All these boys can play big shots. They are in a generation where they are practising playing the big shots and some of the sixes they hit boggle the mind.
"We had played on very good wickets over the last couple of months. But you may not get wickets where you can score 300 plus. There will be 240-250 plus wickets. They have learnt to rotate the strike but they can always get better and improve," the legendary batsman noted.
The 16-team Under 19 World Cup starts on January 27 and India is in Group D along side New Zealand, Ireland and Nepal. Top two in each of the four groups will go to the quarter-finals.
Dravid was satisfied with the preparations of the squad going into the tournament, which India won thrice (2000 in Sri Lanka, 2008 in Malaysia and 2012 in Australia).
"We have got good preparations over the last two months and played some good games in Mumbai. For a lot of these players it started in October in the domestic one-day cricket. Then we played a tournament in Kolkata with Afghanistan and Bangladesh U-19 squads. The squad was whittled down to 18 and it was then taken to Sri Lanka.
"The biggest challenge and the hardest thing for me and the selectors was to bring down the number of players from 36 to 15. Everyone is talented. That's why we rotated the squad," said Dravid.
Asked why Ishan Kishan, a wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand, was made the captain, Dravid said, "It seems captains from Jharkhand seem to do well. It's just a joke."
"The under-19 cricketers have played a lot of cricket only over the last two months. The last match they played together was in the last World Cup (won by South Africa)," Dravid said.
"We were not dead certain who was going to lead. We tried out different captains, and looking at all angles we thought Ishan Kishan was the best," he said.
Kishan said his stint under India's World Cup winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy helped him.
"I played with Dhoni. During the match he was telling me what to do in different situations. It was very good talking to him," Kishan said.
'Ishan will play as a batsman'
Dravid made it clear that with both the captain and vice captain Rishabh Pant being wicket-keeper batsmen, the latter will keep wickets in the World Cup.
"Both will make the playing eleven. Both can keep wickets and open. Both are very good players. There are a lot of similarities between them and they are good friends as well.
"Ishan will play as a batsman. He's a very good fielder and he can focus on captaincy. He's a very good wicketkeeper too and has a very good future. It's just that he won't keep wickets in this tournament."
More than winning the tournament, Dravid said he would be happy to see the players growing to represent the country at the senior level.
"I am not trying to win the World Cup as a coach, but in developing these guys. Winning these Under 19 World Cups is not the be-all-and-end all. I will be happier if some of these guys represent India. That should be their aim and real aspiration."
He also pointed out that there had been players who had done well at the under-19 World Cup and not gone on to play for India and there have been others who had done well at this level and gone on to make a big name for themselves at the international level.
"The focus is always about taking this as an opportunity to grow as a cricketer," Dravid said.
Dream of playing for senior team
"It's just one step in their journey as cricketers. No one wants to end up as only an India under-19 cricketer, everyone wants to go on and represent India and in the World cup for seniors," he added.
Asked about the other teams in India's group, Dravid said not much is known about others at this level. "One of the things with the under-19 is you don't have enough knowledge about a lot of teams. I am not really focused on who we play against. We are covered in all departments.
"We have good fast bowlers, spinners, boys who can bat and bowl, those who can bat deep, bat up to 8. It's about executing skills under pressure. If they play up to the potential I have seen, we need not worry about other teams.
"I know a role of a coach, how much coach can influence and impact a result. I am realistic. I knew how much I could impact as a player. It's in their (players') hands to win a World Cup and not necessarily mine as a coach."
Dravid said playing at the first-class level, as some of the squad members like Sarfaraz Khan have done, will be a plus point for them.
"It is good, they have played in games that have been high-pressure games. Every time you play in a first class game, it means you have to handle a certain amount of pressure. I am sure that's always helpful.
"We have two or three guys who have played an (U19 World Cup) earlier. Sarfaraz, Rickey (Bhui) and Avesh (Khan), who have been at the World Cup before. So, hopefully they will use their experience," he added.
India open their campaign against Ireland on January 28 at the Sher-e-Bangla national stadium in Mirpur.