‘Expectations are high for these boys’ – Sri Lanka U19 coach


Naveed Nawaz talks exclusively to Island Cricket ahead of the team’s first World Cup match
By Damith Samarakoon | August 10, 2012

Sri Lanka U19
Sri Lanka U19’s World Cup begins on August 11. © ICC

How confident is the team going into the first game?

The confidence level is good. As far as the team is concerned, we played two practice games and the team took it as part of their learning curve to get accustomed to the climate and conditions. I think the boys in the last couple of days, learnt a few things about the weather and how the wickets behave here. We will take it in a positive note and move forward.

Did you try out anything specific in the warm-up games in terms of batting?

Yes. We were trying a few things with the batting order in terms of who should bat where. We had a set batting order which we played in the Asia Cup and we knew the guys who will be batting at the top and who will be coming in the middle. But we played around in the India game a little bit in the middle, thinking in the lines of who we are going to play in the first game

What about the bowling?

With the bowlers, we were looking in terms of how many spinners we can play under these conditions and with the fast bowlers what they can get out of the wickets. We learnt that being winter, the wickets aren’t that quick and are a bit on the slower side. The bounce is still there though so we feel that it’s an advantage to play our two spinners.

In the two warm-up games, the batting did not fare that well. Is that a concern?

Certainly, they struggled with the pace of the wickets. Both the wickets we played on seemed to be quite slow. If you look at the Indian side, even they struggled with their batting earlier on – they got only 190 odd. Our boys struggled a little bit getting used to the slowness of the wickets more than anything else. Even in the Ireland game that was a concern. More than anything, our boys are struggling with the slowness and the bounce in these wickets. The bounce is there but its holding up a little bit and has more of a tennis ball bounce.

The two warm-up games weren’t played where the actual games are. Any indication as to what the conditions will be for the actual matches?

Yes. The warm up games were played on A-grade wickets and I think the Alan Border Field might be different to those. I’m not sure how it will play during the winter time but I think it could be better than both the wickets we played on.

Captain Sanitha de Mel has only been appointed the captain of the U19 side recently. Last year, the team had a different captain in Angelo Jayasinghe; what was the reasoning behind changing the captain with just two months to the World Cup?

There is no particular reason as such. Sanitha was a senior player for a long time and has been in the U19 side from 2009. It’s a matter of mixing it around just to figure out whose got potential. At this age level, you wouldn’t want to focus on one person. It’s not like the national team, it’s U19s and they’ve got a long way to go. The goal is not always to win but to identify talent. If someone else has got talent to captain then we have to give them the opportunity as well. So, we try to rotate things around and try to figure out who can do what.

How has de Mel responded to the new responsibility and how have the team responded and adjusted to the change in captaincy?

The team always had respect for him because he’s been one of the most senior players in the side. There was no problem with the boys adjusting to him. He’s taken on the responsibility well and he’s doing well at the moment. I wouldn’t say he’s struggling or anything like that. He’s doing his job quite well.

What are the team’s strengths in these conditions and what is the strategy? Are you looking at possibly playing two spinners or going in with more medium pacers?

We haven’t decided on that as yet. We might play four quicks and a spinner or three quicks and a spinner but we haven’t made that decision yet.

Looking ahead to the first game, who do you think will be the key players for Sri Lanka?

I think the batting will be the main role when it comes to us. We’ve struggled with batting on the tour so far. If the batsmen can make it count, then that’s the main thing. Our bowling is good, so the batting will be the key.

Who do you see as the main threats for Sri Lanka from the Bangladesh side in the first game?

Bangladesh has always been a good side, they do the little things right. Their fielding is good, their bowling is very tight and their batting has always been good. We played them in Malaysia during the Asia Cup and we know a few things about them. We have strategically lined-up a few things about them. At this level of cricket, it’s quite different than at a national cricket because the team that consistently plays well on that particular day are going to have an advantage. So, we can’t take anyone lightly and we go into the game to put in our hundred-percent

Playing in a World Cup environment and knowing that there are players like Alistair Cook, Angelo Mathews, David Warner etc who have come through the U19 ranks, do you find that there is pressure at an individual level for the players to do well to open up avenues for future opportunities in the national side?

Well, there is always a bit of pressure which can be good and bad. The expectations are high for these boys. They are away from their country, family, school and friends so that all adds up. The pressure is there but its one of the required skills; if you are looking to be a professional cricketer in your career, then thats one of the skills you must learn – how to handle pressure. That’s one thing that we also work with them on. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It can interfere with your game occasionally but it’s a part of the game and it’s always going to be there. You can’t eliminate it from the game, so it’s better to handle it than to be negative about it.

Naveed Nawaz was speaking to Island Cricket’s Damith Samarakoon by phone from Brisbane.

© Island Cricket

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