Seven months of meticulous planning by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) top brass ahead of the inaugural U-19 World Cup went a long way in India securing their maiden ICC title in women's cricket.
With India already being the most successful side at the men's U-19 level with five trophies, expectations were high from the U-19 girls.
With the event happening for the first time, VVS Laxman-led NCA was proactive in organising regular camps and back-to-back series in the lead up to the competition in South Africa.
It all started with a camp in June last year with all 25 probables, who were shortlisted considering their performances in the domestic U-19 event.
After that, the players competed in the Challenger Trophy, a quadrangular series involving West Indies, Sri Lanka and two India teams, bilaterals against New Zealand before the five games in South Africa ahead of the ICC event.
It was crucial since the junior women players did not have much exposure of playing against international teams unlike the men's junior players.
According to team's fielding coach Munish Bali, who was also part of U-19 title winning squads led by Virat Kohli (2008) and Yash Dhull (2022) respectively, said the players got better with every game against international teams and peaked at the World Cup.
"The NCA has to be given a lot of credit for how it prepared the players. Compared to the boys, the girls don't get as many games at the age-group level but the BCCI made sure they got the best possible training cum competition exposure," said Bali.
The other members of the support staff were head coach Nooshin Al Khadeer, batting coach Apurva Desai and bowling coach Rajiv Dutta.
The likes of Shweta Sehrawat, Parshavi Chopra, Archana Devi, Mannat Kashyap and Titas Sadhu become overnight stars with their exploits in South Africa but Bali feels they still have a long way to go.
"All the players have the talent, now women's IPL will give them a big boost. We need to see how they perform there and get ready for the big stage. It is the only beginning but the future is bright," Bali told PTI.
The fielding coach revealed even the players, who didn't get to play regularly, could be stars of the future.
"As part of team strategy, Sadhu played most of the games because her all-round abilities. The other pacer to watch out for is Shabnam MD. She has a nice rhythmic run up and bowls at 110 kmph. Batter Soumya Tiwari is another player who didn't play all the games but is very talented," Bali remarked.
He emphasised the need to go back to domestic cricket for all the squad members.
"After the men's U-19 World Cup last year, all the the boys all went back to domestic cricket and out of them only Yash Dhull went on to make a statement in Ranji Trophy.
"Comparison between boys and girls should not be done. Boys get much more exposure, they start early and play a lot more games. Now the girls are picking up the game young too with women's cricket getting more popular," he said.
Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh were the two senior India players in the squad. There was scope of other players getting overawed with their presence but Bali said the captain galvanised the whole unit.
"She led the team brilliantly. Shafali gelled with the girls instantly and became friends with everyone. That is a great quality for a leader. She has been playing international cricket for more than three years but she made everyone felt equal."
"The win a meant a lot to her and it was visible too as she was crying post the final," he added.