Siraj's maturity stands out: Rahul Dravid

Indian cricket is replete with stories of young talents losing the plot during the transition from U-19 to the senior national team. The appointment of Rahul Dravid as the chief coach for India U-19 and India A in June 2015, was not only to plug this gap but also to mentor young minds and talents. Under the 45-year-old, the development teams have come of age.

Explaining the importance of mental conditioning of players at this level, Dravid, speaking after India A’s win against South Africa A here, pointed out: “At the India ‘A’ level, it’s not so much about technique. The large part is about where they are in their career: some close to a national call-up, some might have just come into the scene. For us, it is about creating the best environment for them to do well. We give them what’s required for them to feel relaxed and enjoy the game. We also challenge them. We push them a little bit and we demand high standards.”

Having come up the ranks of junior cricket, Dravid knows the importance of starting out young and understands the needs of a player coming late into the sport. A case in point is Mohammed Siraj, whose career in IPL came after one rewarding domestic season.

Delving into the progress of the Hyderabad pacer, who has been in phenomenal form with the red ball this season, but has gone wicketless in his three-match T20 International career, Dravid explained, “To get 25 wickets in the last three games in England is terrific. It’s his maturity that stands out. He is someone who has played very less first-class matches. He hasn’t been part of the system as he hasn’t played much junior cricket either. So he is learning all the time. Even in white ball cricket, I won’t be too harsh on him because he hasn’t played that much, maybe a little bit of IPL, he had one good season and then he was in and out. It’s been great to give him the chance to perform. He has been bowling in much better areas and he has grown better physically.”

Reiterating that opportunities for players and not result was the prime focus of the team management, Dravid said, “Winning and losing is just a part at this level and not the be all and end all. Our job is to give opportunities to young talents. We want to know the requirements of the national team and think of providing that. We have players coming from the national team and we have to give them opportunities as well. Sometimes we are looking to rotate the squad so that everyone gets an opportunity to play. We are always looking at new talents.”

When asked on how far Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw are from making the senior grade, Dravid deflected the question and said, “It’s a bit of a loaded question and I know what the headlines will be tomorrow when I answer that question. All I will say is, I think they have shown over the last year or so with their performances that they are playing very good cricket. It’s nice to see them developing and growing as players. Whether there is an opportunity or not is not for me to decide.”

Dravid further highlighted the need for more matches and said how scheduling is a critical part of the series. “You are working on a reciprocal basis with other teams. BCCI has put in a good plan in place so we can give our players exposure at a slightly higher level than the domestic cricket. It’s a good bridge between domestic and international cricket. We want to give them as many matches as we can. If the players keep performing like Mayank, Prithvi, Siraj and Bharat – with ten catches in this game and a really good 60 – it opens up options for selectors.”

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