Road Ahead for U-19s: BCCI-NCA may develop '19 plus' team to stop talented boys from going off radar


New Delhi: Kamal Passi played a few matches for Punjab some seasons ago, Ravikant Singh is nowhere near the system now and four years since his glory days, Manjot Kalra's career hasn't got a head-start.

They were all once U-19 World Cup winners but have fallen off the radar, which is an issue that the BCCI will have to address.

That's why there could be a "19 plus" level added to the pathways structure with the National Cricket Academy (NCA) ensuring that the talented U-19 players who have just crossed the age-group remain firmly in the system and their progress is monitored.

Such a concept was in place during N Srinivasan's regime and when Sanjay Jagdale was the secretary and it seems that there are discussions to revive that structure.

The likes of Shaik Rasheed (Andhra), Ravi Kumar (Bengal), Raj Angad Bawa (Chandigarh) or Yash Dhull (Delhi) might make it to the state side right away but many players from the current India line-up will be caught in between the post-U19 phase and Ranji Trophy.

There exists an U-25 (previously U-23) state level but too many candidates are queuing for particular slots in those teams also.

"There is a five-tier pathways structure that National Cricket Academy could be looking at in future for developing players for the senior India team. It starts with U-16, followed by U-19, the Emerging (national U-23) and A team.

"In this there is a plan to add a '19 plus' level where all these boys could be integrated," a senior BCCI official privy to discussions told PTI on the condition of anonymity.

Among all these levels, the BCCI's U-25 (now known as state A team) is basically a platform given to players, who are unable to make the senior grade.

The coaches know that most of the men who are 23-24 and are still not playing first-class cricket regularly might never make the grade, and hence, the bridge between U-19 and first-class cricket becomes doubly important.

Once the new NCA becomes operational with four first-class level grounds inside its premises, the academy can have its own '19 plus' teams which can play matches among themselves and their progress can be regularly monitored by the coaches, trainers and physios.

If they make the grade and play state A team (U-25) or Ranji Trophy, nothing like it but if they aren't part of any teams, at least they are in NCA's radar.

It is expected that the BCCI brass (president and secretary) might have discussions with the 10 national selectors (five junior and five senior) along with NCA supremo VVS Laxman and senior national head coach Rahul Dravid to create a blueprint.

"We all get really excited with the U-19 triumph but one doesn't understand that BCCI has such a great structure in place that we will always be up there among junior teams at global level.

"But just after this, first-class becomes a different beast. Go and check the 2012 team. Save Hanuma Vihari, most are now nowhere among even best domestic players in their own states," the veteran official, who had worked extensively in junior cricket, said.

Renowned Australian fast bowling coach Troy Cooley has already joined the NCA in Bengaluru, where he will be monitoring the progress of India's next batch of pacers.

The BCCI has thought about providing a pace bowlers' NCA contract to 10 talented youngsters whose entire cost of coaching, injury management and other expenses will be taken care of by the board.

It remains to be seen if something on similar lines is done for the reigning U-19 world champions.

PTI

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