Venkatesh Prasad, who had coached the Indian side at the Under-19 World Cup in 2006, revealed that back then, he identified Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara as standout talents. Prasad added that he had even asked the BCCI to fast-track the trio as much as they can.
India ended the 2006 Under-19 World Cup as runners-up, losing to archrivals Pakistan, but in retrospect, the defeat has mattered little as the batch of ‘06 have since gone on to rule Indian cricket. Led by Ravikant Shukla, India’s 2006 U19 side featured multiple generational talents, including the likes of Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara.
The team, that finished runners-up, was coached by former Indian pacer Venkatesh Prasad, and in an interaction with FanCode, the 50-year-old revealed that he had identified the trio of Rohit, Pujara and Chawla as the best three cricketers from the batch.
"These three guys -- Piyush Chawla, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma -- I had no doubt about their talent and their capabilities. I knew very well that they're going to go a long way. In fact, the moment the U-19 World Cup (2006) was over, I did write to BCCI in my report saying that these players should be fast-tracked into playing Ranji Trophy or the zone matches, this is what I had said," Prasad told FanCode.
The team also featured a then 17-year-old Ravindra Jadeja, and Prasad opined that the all-rounder always had the talent, but needed to put the hard yards in to succeed - something which he did with time.
"Ravi Jadeja definitely had the talent and all he had to do was work hard on his ability, on his skillset and be focused."
No conversation with Venkatesh Prasad is complete without talking about the 1996 World Cup incident with Aamer Sohail and the pacer recalled that ‘his blood boiled’ after he saw the left-hander make 'that' gesture after dispatching the ball to the boundary.
"There's not even a single day that goes by without anybody, whoever sees me, come what may, would definitely ask me, every single day from the last 24 years. He should've just gone back to his crease probably after getting that, but there was some exchange of words and a gesture that he made which didn't really go well. Obviously, with the entire nation and spectators who were watching, and of course, with me as well. My blood was really boiling and we needed a wicket.”