Revival of 'A' tours a right step towards planning for an exciting future of Indian cricket

India A, New Zealand A
India A recently took on New Zealand A at home. Pic: BCCI

When it comes to the selection of Indian cricket's T20I squads, or even ODI teams to an extent, performing in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) seems to have become the main criterion.

In recent times, the likes of Umran Malik and Arshdeep Singh, to name a few, have been fast-tracked into India’s T20I squads. Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan, meanwhile, have made their presence felt in both white-ball formats. Speaking of Test matches, though, domestic cricket remains the primary talent pool for Indian selectors.

The revival of “A” tours on the Indian cricketing calendar in recent times is also a step in the right direction. Since the A squad is considered the second-tier team in the country, it includes a versatile mix of players - young guns who are on the fringes of international selection and also experienced players who are striving to make a comeback. Some who have been playing domestic cricket for long, but haven’t been on the selectors’ radar also get a different window of opportunity to present their case.

There was a phase in between where it seemed A tours were not being given a lot of prominence by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). India were playing non-stop international cricket and their total focus for nearly two months of the calendar year was completely on the IPL. The A tour was thus relegated to the backburner.

In recent years, that seems to have changed, and for the good of Indian cricket. After all, one must never forget that one of the greatest names in the game, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, grabbed the limelight following his exploits on the A tour of Kenya in 2004. He scored 440 runs in that series, including two dazzling hundreds. The rest, as they say, is history.

"A" highly competitive and invaluable experience

The Ranji Trophy remains the premier domestic tournament on the Indian circuit. And its value can never be underestimated. However, it is also true that since most of the big names are on international duty, they hardly get a chance to play in the competition. As a result, the competitive edge is often missing in the Ranji Trophy.

The primary advantage with A tours is that players get to test their skills against upcoming as well as seasoned talents from other countries both home and away, bringing a mini-international flavor to such games.

India A toured South Africa for three unofficial Tests (November-December 2021) and have just finished a home series against New Zealand A, which comprised three red-ball games and as many ODIs.

The India A squad for the Proteas series was almost like a half-international team. It had Hanuma Vihari, Deepak Chahar, Ishan Kishan, Navdeep Saini, and Umran Malik, among others. All of them have been in and out of the Indian team lately due to varied reasons. Sarfaraz Khan, Prithvi Shaw and skipper Priyank Panchal were also rewarded for their impressive domestic performances.

The opposition side had Sarel Erwee, Zubayr Hamza, Pieter Malan, Marco Jansen and George Linde, all of whom have international experience. As such, there would have been good learnings for both teams.

It was a bit disappointing to see all three unofficial Tests drawn, with rain also playing its part. However, there were some positives for India A as Vihari and Abhimanyu Easwaran scored over 200 runs, while youngsters like Kishan and Shaw gained some valuable experience in challenging conditions. This is something, they couldn’t have learnt by playing in the IPL.

Speaking of the home games against New Zealand A, India A dominated proceedings, clinching the three-match (unofficial) Test series 1-0, before whitewashing the Kiwis in the one-dayers.

The results weren’t surprising since, like the national squad, India A are also expected to be dominant in home conditions. The confidence gained from these games, though, is of a slightly superior level, considering the nature of the opposition.

“There is not much difference between an A game and an international game” - Sanju Samson

Team India and Kerala wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson, who led the India A one-day squad to a 3-0 whitewash over New Zealand A, shared his thoughts on the significance of A tours ahead of the matches.

He had opined that there is not much difference between an A game and an international game. The 27-year-old had commented:

“A tours are really important. Coming to a venue like Chepauk, this heat, these types of conditions, different types of opponents and bowlers, one-day format, spending time in the middle is a great way to move forward.
"There is not much difference between an A game and an international game. The competition is almost the same, so it is important to make use of the opportunities.”

Samson has a point for sure. More A tours are the order of the day, specifically keeping the future of Indian cricket in mind.

Also Read: 3 players whose T20 World Cup 2022 spot is under the scanner

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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