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'Focus is on developing career, not results' - Dravid

Mark Ramprakash says there is more of a technical emphasis while coaching at Under-19 level whereas tactics are more of a focus at senior level Getty Images

It is the eve of England Under-19s' five-match Youth ODI series in India. On a practice pitch at the Wankhede Stadium, two left-arm spinners are being put through their paces. Liam Patterson-White and Louis Shaw, both 18, have played second-eleven cricket for Nottinghamshire and Surrey respectively. In a little over an hour, they bowl close to 10 overs each - some deliveries are too full, some short, some are either too slow or too quick, and some even land perfectly at the right pace.

On an adjacent pitch, an England batsman is facing throw-downs from a member of the support staff. He is informed of the field set for him: "a mid-off, cover, point, a sweeper cover, third man, mid-on, deep square leg and fine leg." A slip is belatedly added. A few crisp drives into the net and a couple of false strokes ensue, including a badly-timed pull that finds the imaginary mid-on fielder.

There is plenty of talent in these nets, but a lot of it is raw talent. What goes into turning these bright teenagers into consistent, successful players at a higher level?

"It's important for me not to forget how young they are and how little cricket they've played," England's batting coach Mark Ramprakash, who is in India with the Under-19s squad, says. "The simple things that we take for granted, you have to remember that they may not know that. Coaching is a balance of supporting them, telling them what they've done well, but also asking the right questions to where they can improve.

"As soon as the batsmen come in, they're talking about their dismissal, which I don't like. I want to know what they've done well."

Ramprakash, who has never coached at this level before, says there isn't too much of a difference between coaching the senior team and the Under-19s.

"It's a similar task and a similar style. With the senior team, I don't give my opinion too much unless I'm invited. If they say 'what do you think', then I'll give my opinion but otherwise I'm trying help them think about their game and how they want to play in different situations.

"A lot of the players now are mature in the way they carry themselves. They are open-minded, level-headed, and that impressed me because the youngsters weren't like this 15-20 years ago. There's a lot of support, almost parenting in a way because they are young.

"The emphasis is to meet halfway - the player must give and the coach must give. I try to build a friendly relationship between the players where they can feel open and confident in talking to the coach. As a player, that two-way relationship was never established with any coach in my England career."

As the series wears on, you begin to see the players improve subtly. In the first two ODIs, the India Under-19s opener Shubman Gill is dismissed as a result of hard hands through the line of the ball. In the third ODI, he plays the ball a lot later and strikes a match-winning 138.

Gill's coach Rahul Dravid is in charge of the Under-19s as well as the India A side. The two roles, Dravid says, are slightly different.

"You're looking at skills and temperament. To identify the pitfalls for them at a higher level," he says. "For example, if one of the boys looks good here, but you tell him, "if you don't improve in these areas, you will have a problem in the Ranji Trophy", making them aware of that. They don't play fast bowling, short bowling as much, we try to give them exposure of that here. It's a little more technical here compared with India A. Here you intervene. Here you have time. I tell them it doesn't matter where you are now, it matters where you are at the end of the cycle."

In the England Under-19s' camp, both coach Andy Hurry and Ramprakash stress on the importance of inculcating the basics at this level, since the players' instincts aren't as developed as at more senior levels.

"If people have good technique, they have a method of play that repeats," Ramprakash says. "Some of the Indian top-order players, technically, they're very good, they have a good stance, balanced, orthodox, good grip, pick the bat up. It looks in sync and so it repeats. So you're more likely to be successful. That technical input is important at an early age to find that technique. With the first team, I find myself talking little about technique, more tactical.

"If you have good basics, you can succeed at any level. In trying to produce an international cricketer, you have to have the basics that work at first-class level. You still need to be able to score at the first-class level, where there may be less pace, otherwise you may not get to the international level. In training, we want to expose the boys to challenging practice, pushing them in terms of pace, the method of playing accurate spin bowling."

Dravid is insistent that players learn, imbibe and reflect at this level, rather than focus on results or creating a winning habit. He has also broadened India's pool of Under-19s, creating an environment for studying the game and taking those lessons to whichever level the players go on to next.

"As long as they learn, I don't care about much else," Dravid says. "Even if you fail, if you go back with the right feedback, you're better off than having succeeded and not reflected on it. I was at an Under-17 camp and Hanumant Singh used to tell me, "don't focus on results at this stage, focus on developing your career". I feel so similarly about this.

"The more they fail, as long as they reflect upon it and recognise these are the shortcomings and this is what you need to improve on. That's our job, to make them aware of the things they need to work on and become better players. No magic pill; I can't give them a formula that will make them successful. It's up to them to go back and put in the work.

"Even if some of them don't make it to the [Under-19] World Cup, I want them to feel they've had an opportunity in and around the group. And they've got some level of feedback, exposure at this level so that it can only benefit them when they go back to play."