Mumbai: Coach Rahul Dravid on Monday said India did not play their "number one game" in the final of the ICC U-19 World Cup, notwithstanding the eight-wicket drubbing of Australia en route to winning the title. Dravid, though, promptly added that his team fully deserved the title triumph.
"We did not play our number one game in the finals, that we played in the quarterfinal (versus Bangladesh) and semifinal (against Pakistan). Just the fact that they played the finals was an experience," Dravid said.
The former India captain was speaking after the team's arrival here from New Zealand where the tournament was held. "I'm really happy that the 15 boys got to wear World Cup medal. They deserve it. It's been a lot of sacrifices, the way they played in the World Cup.
"The way they jelled, the quality of cricket they played - all these give you a lot of satisfaction. We were under pressure in a few games, but there were people who stood up and delivered."
The batting legend added that the most satisfying part, other than winning the World Cup, was the process the team followed to reach the top. "The real satisfaction, in my opinion, is the process that was followed over the last 14-16 months, the whole planning and preparation that has gone into, not necessarily for this World Cup, but for developing the U19 players.
"It was great team work, guys behind the scenes, the selectors, NCA, the BCCI setting up games and series. Winning a tournament like this is a good reflection of the team work." Dravid cautioned that the real test awaits his young players.
"The challenge and the hard work really start from here, we had couple of conversation on it. When we were there they showed a rerun of the 2012 finals and I started checking upon a few things. "It is interesting... the result of the final is India beat Australia but six years down the line only one of those boys has played for India while 5-6 of them went on to play for Australia."
He felt a lot will depend on how the young players are managed. "Talent is there, ability is there, it's about managing themselves, how to deal with pressure and the expectations that will come as U-19 champions. "It's not easy to get into the Indian side. At least if they become good first class cricketers, from then on it becomes a stepping stone to play for India."
Dravid said the players treated the high-pressure semifinal against arch-foes Pakistan like any other game. "The boys knew that many people watch it. We played two Asia Cups but we did not play Pakistan, I am happy that they got to know what an India-Pakistan game is about, at the U-19 level.
"The way our boys handled that game, the quality of cricket that we played, the intensity that we showed was commendable and we did not give them a chance to come back."
Dravid felt these boys should now quit playing age-level cricket, although he said it was his personal view. "My view is quite well known. I feel that once the boys are good enough they should go on to play men's cricket, especially those who had played first class cricket.
"Five boys from last year's World Cup qualified to play this time. But we made a conscious decision not to pick them as I felt it will be better for them to play U-23 cricket and senior men's cricket."