Get Abhinav into the Ranji Team, when in form and high on confidence- India U19 Coach
Lalchand Rajput was a formidable opening bat for Bombay, who in the mid 80s played a couple of tests and one-dayers for India. He recently was the coach of the Indian U19 team that toured Sri Lanka and is currently the manager of the Indian team at the 2020 World Cup. Rajput played a key role with Abhinav during the recent India U19 tour of SriLanka and can be credited with the two big knocks that the left hander played towards the end of the tour.
In this exclusive telephonic interview from South Africa, Lalchand Rajput, the U19 India Coach talks to S.Prabhu about Abhinav Mukund and his prospects.
Q. When did you first watch him bat?
Lalchand Rajput(LR): I first saw Abhinav at the NCA(National Cricket Academy) a couple of years ago, when he was around 15 years. But more recently, I watched him at the U19 camp in Chennai, just before the team left for the Sri Lanka tour.
Q. What was your initial assessment of Abhinav (just before the tour)?
LR: He seemed to have a very tight bottom hand and tended to play a lot towards mid wicket and square leg and also behind square. The camp was too short a time to change this. However, I told him to practice with the top hand and to leave the bottom hand loose. Also, I wanted him to play the initial overs in the mid off and mid on region. I asked him to play his shots only after settling down.
Q. He did not seem to do too well early on in the Sri Lanka tour. What did you tell him that suddenly transformed him?
LR: As I said, the pre tour camp in Chennai was too short a time to make a correction. However, during the course of the tour, I kept instilling the confidence in him that he has the potential to play a long innings. I asked him not to play across the line, at least in the initial stages of his innings. He is a good listener and grasps things well. And by the end of the tour, you could see the transformation. He is now a good player all round the wicket. He has got a very good cover drive and a straight drive. He is also playing a lot more ‘showing the full face’ of the bat. And that’s something he has picked up very quickly from the discussions I had with him.
Q. What should he do now as he prepares himself for the move into the higher league?
LR: Once he gets in, I would like him to tighten himself and look for a long innings. He is improving all the time. But he must look to improve further and not rest on past glory. He has a very good temperament, is a brilliant fielder and a good runner between the wickets. He must bowl a bit more in the nets and simulate situations, as if he is bowling in a match. He can actually be a good player in the shorter version of the game too, in addition to succeeding in the longer form of the game.
Q. Tamil Nadu has traditionally been a little slow in inducting youngsters with high potential into the Ranji team. Do you think he is fit to make the jump into the Ranji team?
LR: I do not know what their plan is and it is a call the TN selectors will have to take. He has done well in the U19. However, having watched him closely and having seen him transform to a player with shots all round the wicket from being a pre dominantly on side player, my view is that one should try and get him into the Ranji team as quickly as possible and give him the right opportunities. He is in form and high on confidence. If you do not give youngsters the opportunities at the right time, especially ones with high potential, you will not be able to decide how good they are for the next level.