BCCI's newly appointed chairman of the junior selection committee Sridharan Sharath will seek Rahul Dravid’s help to select the Indian Team for the U-19 World Cup 2022. Dravid, the current NCA head, has worked with U-19 cricketers during his stint as the head coach of India A and Under-19 teams.
Sharath has sprung into action right after his appointment as the head of the junior selection committee and has his eyes set on the Under-19 World Cup 2022 already. India were runners-up in the last Under-19 World Cup in South Africa under Rahul Dravid. Sharath said he is likely to meet with Dravid, who is seeking reappointment as the National Cricket Academy (NCA) director in the next few weeks.
“I am planning to travel to Bengaluru and meet Dravid. He has been working with the kids for some time now and knows talent when he sees one. He will be our guiding light. We are planning to have a lengthy discussion with him and chalk a roadmap,” Sharath told TOI.
The former Tamil Nadu captain feels his job will be a challenging one because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which has hampered the age-group cricket in the country. States have allowed players to start training only from the last few months. Sharath feels the selection committee would be running against time to pick the right players for the Indian team for the Under-19 World Cup scheduled to be held in the West Indies next year.
“It will be a challenging task but we shouldn’t be in a hurry. We need to understand that the kids have not played cricket for over a year. In fact, their movements have been restricted due to Covid. So they will take time to press the restart button. As selectors, we need to give the young players the space and freedom where they find their feet again. We need to take one step at a time and remain patient,” Sharath told TOI on Friday.
First step for Sharath, alongside the other selectors will be travelling to watch the Vinoo Mankad Trophy games starting from next week. While skills and character used to be the main criteria earlier for selecting a team, Sharath said that mental toughness will be equally important under the Covid circumstances.
“We will be watching the games with an open mind. Any player can surprise us. What I would personally want to see in a player is their mental toughness. Earlier the focus was on attitude, concentration level and skill. But things have changed drastically after the pandemic. A player needs to remain in a bubble for a long time and it’s not going to be easy for young players. So mental strength will be the key," the 48-year-old said.
"We won’t judge a player by seeing only a few games. If a player impresses us, we would keep a track of him and see how he copes up with a lot of things. We want to see the players go through the drill in plenty of matches and tours and then make our final selection.”
Apart from the Under-19 World Cup the former Tamil Nadu southpaw said he wants to build a pool of players for each category.
“There should be 30-40 cricketers in each category of under-16, under-19, etc. They should be groomed in a way that they can go on and represent their state in Ranji Trophy and other formats. That should be the process and we shouldn’t jump the gun,” Sharath concluded.