Prithvi Shaw-led side are back in India after winning the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Mumbai: Shubman Gill held onto a skier in the semifinal against Pakistan. Harvik Desai took an absolute screamer and Shiva Singh pulled off a stunning run-out in the final against Australia. While head coach Rahul Dravid admitted that India did not play their best cricket in the ICC 2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup final against Australia, Prithvi Shaw and the boys were one of the best fielding sides in the tournament in New Zealand.
The World Champions are back in India and this correspondent got a chance to speak with the team’s fielding coach, Abhay Sharma. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q) You have worked with senior Indian cricket team in the past. So, what’s the difference that you see in terms of fielding with Indian sides? Are these guys, at this age, better at their skills or more is needed to be done?
A) See, as far as Indian fielding is concerned, you can see the difference in the last couple of years, we have been really improving in all stages; right from under-19, under-23, India A and the Indian team. A lot of skill work is going on. But at this level, we work more on their mindset because that is more important.
Because they are kids, there is energy and we have to channelise that energy, with a little bit of skill work. So, that’s what we were focusing on. So far, so good. Definitely, there was a lot of improvement in the tournament went on. The credit goes to our trainers, physio and all the support staff.
Q) There were some different drills which you won’t see with the senior team. What was the thought behind it? Or as you said, it is more about the mindset training?
A) We were trying to create coordination. It is not always nice to be involved in fielding only. It’s the matter of channelising that energy. Once you achieve that, you go into the skill work. It was a mix of that to generate the interest. Every session, it has to be different.
So, they feel that there is something new happening and that will create a mindset which we are looking at. The more and more I was working on intent and mindset rather than on skill work. Skill work is important, we were working on it in India. But once we reached New Zealand, I was working more on channelizing their energy and mindset.
Q) In last two games, there were two or three dismissals in the semifinals and finals – Shubman Gill’s catch vs Pakistan, Harvik Desai’s catch off Kamlesh Nagarkoti and Shiva Singh’s run out, were they the highlights of your entire campaign?
A) As far as the tournament goes, I can very proudly say that there were a lot of very good catches that were taken in the tournament. The one taken by Shivam Mavi at the boundary (against Pakistan in the semifinal) and Harvik as you said. Aryan Juyal in the first game against Australia, Prithvi Shaw (in the semifinal) and Shubman Gill, in the semifinal, where he ran backwards, behind the head (to take a catch). So, we are working on those skills and whenever, the ball was in the air, the mindset was to go for it.
Remember, in the finals, Shiva Singh just lost one catch, but he created that run out (of Baxter J Holt). So, we were working on it. Whatever the opportunity is, we will go for it and if you don’t achieve that success, try and look for the next opportunity. So, we are working on different skills like attempting a catch and attempting a run out on the second attempt also. So, we are way ahead of our plan.
Q) Is it fair to say that this was one of the better fielding units in the tournament?
A) Yes. The way the boys have worked during the camps and the preparations and the improvement they have shown during the tournament. A lot of coaches from different teams – Australia, Bangladesh and even England – we did not play against England, but they were watching our games, all the three-four coaches said that your team is best fielding side in the tournament. So, that was a very proud moment as a fielding coach.