The 2018 Under-19 World Cup, which was won by India recently, has created many stars in captain Prithvi Shaw, batsmen Manjot Kalra and Shubman Gill, and bowlers Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi and Ishan Porel.
Some of the World Cup winning players have even got Indian Premier League contracts for the upcoming season. India U-19 fielding coach Abhay Sharma had also said that at least six players from the squad have the potential to play for India A.
However, former India fast bowler and chief junior selector Venkatesh Prasad believes the youngsters should not be fast-tracked into the Indian senior team.
“If you fast-track the players and they are not able to handle the pressure, you might lose them,” Prasad told Hindustan Times in an interview. “They start doubting their own ability then.”
He added, “Probably the team management, with [coach] Rahul Dravid being at the helm, will be in a better position to fast-track a few players or not. I am not very sure.”
Prasad, who had coached the Indian team that finished runners-up in the 2006 U19 World Cup, also said that winning the title was a “temporary and short-term goal”, adding that the long-term goal “is to sustain growth” of the players.
“There are several factors which may stop an U-19 player from prospering at the senior level,” he said. “One is the bigger challenge. More importantly, are they mentally strong or mature to handle that pressure?
“Fast-tracking is something we need to be very careful about. There might be lot of talent, potential, but if they are not mentally fit to cope with the pressure, then it’s important to climb the ladder slowly.
“The mental aspect of the game is the difference between the top cricketers and the junior cricketers.”
Prasad, who played 33 Tests and 161 ODIs for India, said that playing first-class cricket should be the next aim of the Indian U19 squad, after which they can graduate to the senior national team.
Prasad also said there are other players in the same age-group as Shaw’s team who were not picked for the U19 World Cup squad but still have the potential to break into the senior Indian side.
“I am sorry they had to be left out as we had a compulsion to make only a 15-man squad,” he said. “If I had the power I would have included them too. But then not every U-19 player goes on to make it big at the next level.”