India Under-19 head coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar feels the experience of working with Rahul Dravid will help him guide the latest crop of young players in the forthcoming 2022 Under-19 World Cup, which will get underway from January 14 in West Indies. The 47-year-old has been involved with the junior team for the past few years as batting coach but has been made the head coach after Dravid was appointed as coach of India’s senior team.
"This is quite a talented team and is keen to do well. They want to win and play for India one day. They have their dreams and aspirations set high and working consistently towards reaching there," the former India player and two-time Ranji Trophy-winning skipper told the Times of India.
"I was the batting coach when we played the last World Cup and since then I was at the NCA and was assigned to U-19 players. Because of the Covid situation, many activities didn't take place but now I am back with the NCA as the head coach of the U-19s. With all this, there was a good possibility I would get the role.
"However, the best part is to help this group of cricketers find their way, as they haven't played much of first-class cricket. You have a chance of making a positive impact. I find myself fortunate that I am getting this opportunity and if I can help them, they can go a long way."
The former left-handed batter, who was also a handy offspinner, played two Tests and 34 ODIs for India. As cliché as it may sound, Kanitkar wants his team to focus on the process rather than thinking too much about the results, something that Dravid believes in too.
“As players, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Usually, it is our own expectations that wear us down. The pressure comes with the thought of consequences. But if you take the result part out, you are left to focus on what you need to do. Rahul also strongly believes in this. If you play your best, you have done your everything.
“The experience of working with Rahul was fabulous. I knew if I did my work, he would back me. He would help me if there was something I needed to correct. But he would never interfere otherwise. We had that freedom to coach and mentor as we thought was right."
The India Under-19 team is currently in the UAE playing the Asia Cup. They will open their Under-19 World Cup campaign against South Africa on January 15, and Kanitkar is looking forward to this exciting challenge of working with young players.
“These guys are looking to make a career and are open to suggestions. When you tell them to try out something, they have an open mind. Experienced players may shut themselves and wouldn't want anybody cutting them. The main thing is to instill team spirit in youngsters. It is important for them to know that if the team does well, the individuals will get noticed. On the contrary, if the team doesn't do well, individual brilliance may also go unnoticed.
“The challenge is to step into their shoes every time you speak to them, not just about skills, but also about their insecurities, self-doubts and other psychological issues. It is a challenge but exciting when you help them out and they get pleasantly surprised with the assessment."
(Image credit: Asian Cricket Council)