Hyderabad-based R. Sridhar was the fielding coach of the under-19 team that won the World Cup

There is a Hyderabad connection to the magnificent triumph of the India under-19 cricket team in the World Cup championship in Australia last week. The 42-year-old Ramakrishnan Sridhar from the city was the fielding coach of the Unmukt Chand-led team which defied all expectations to script a fabulous story.

In fact, Sridhar has been at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for the last three years, especially during the team’s preparations for the last 18 months. Not surprisingly, he is delighted that he is part of a team which won four major titles in the last one year – the Quadrangular Series in Vizag, Asia Cup, the Quadrangular Series in Australia and now this World Cup.

“Beating Australia in Australia in what are clearly very demanding conditions is a huge achievement. The way the boys adapted to the conditions is amazing,” Sridhar says in a chat with The Hindu from Australia.

Having been a part of the India senior team during its training sessions in the NCA before the 2011 World Cup, this articulate coach knew what exactly his job demanded and how to convey it to the players in a very professional manner.

“I am fortunate to have worked with such wonderful boys. There was never a day when they complained of long fielding sessions,” Sridhar recalls. “Since the World Cup was in Australia with big grounds, the emphasis was on direct hits, relay-throws. They really worked hard and I am happy that the fielding has been exceptional in the World Cup (under-19),” he says. “The brilliant title triumph was a result of a collective effort of everyone including the chief coach Bharat Arun, the support staff and most importantly the self-belief the players had shown right through the event,” Sridhar remarks.

“What was the most impressive part of the whole campaign is that the boys showed great team spirit and consistency. They were completely focussed. And, except in the final when Unmukt Chand was the rockstar with his scintillating batting, most of the wins were because of useful contributions from one player or the other,” reminds Sridhar. “This is the beauty of this great win. Each member knew his assigned job and responded in style when the situation demanded,” he added.

“Obviously, this is the most memorable moment in my career. The best part is that I have been with these boys and know their strengths and weakness –which, however, were very few,” reveals Sridhar.

He also stresses that the other big reason for the terrific World Cup victory is the way coach Bharat Arun encouraged free and frank discussions during team meetings. “They were no-holds barred talks. Each player had the freedom to say whatever he wanted to. This helped the support staff to prepare accordingly. I mean this is something incredible; it made the players feel important and motivated them to do bigger things,” explains the former Hyderabad Ranji left-arm spinner. And no one can forget the motivational talks from the seniors Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj to the boys during the NCA camp, he reveals.

Asked to recall a memorable moment before the finals, he says, “For me, the most memorable and exciting match was when India beat Pakistan, especially when the last wicket was at the crease requiring 10 runs to win.” “The Indians turned in huge numbers and were very boisterous in their support. This also motivated the young cricketers to up their ante,” Sridhar signs off.