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'A' level for India's best bat

Cheteshwar Pujara, India's Test No 3, doesn't have much to prove playing a two-match series captaining the 'A' team against West Indies 'A'. With 1180 runs from just 13 Tests, Pujara is ranked No 7 in the latest ICC rankings.

cricket Updated: Sep 11, 2013 02:42 IST
HT Correspondent

Cheteshwar Pujara, India's Test No 3, doesn't have much to prove playing a two-match series captaining the 'A' team against West Indies 'A'. With 1180 runs from just 13 Tests, Pujara is ranked No 7 in the latest ICC rankings, the only Indian batsman in the top ten. Surely, that's no mean feat.

Since Vinod Kambli (14 innings) in 1994, Pujara is the fastest Indian to reach 1000 Test runs (18 innings). In the modern era, only South Africa's Graeme Smith (17 innings) has reached the milestone quicker.

Future captain
Kiran More, the former chief selector, reckoned that Pujara is being positioned as a future Test captain. "Sure, he doesn't have much to prove against West Indies 'A' – that too at home.

But I think it's mainly because Pujara is captaincy material. I have known him for a long time and know the temperament he possesses. Both BCCI and selectors are looking at him as a future captain," More told HT.

"Pujara is the new Rahul Dravid of Indian cricket. And I think the selectors know his value too."

Pujara, unlikely to play the Ranji Trophy, is not short of match practice for November's two-Test home series against West Indies. He even scored a century on the recent 'A' tour to South Africa.

"The thing is that any cricket is good to get into shape. So Pujara must be approaching this series like that. It will only benefit him to spend more time in the middle. And knowing him, he won't mind playing as much cricket a possible," said the former stumper.

The 'A' concept
The original idea behind an 'A' team was to provide a competitive platform to GenNext. Typically, India 'A' would be selected from a pool of 25 players — most of whom are fringe players with only a few having played Tests.

Of late, there isn't a set pattern behind selection. Recently, Abhishek Nayar captained a very young India 'A' squad against New Zealand 'A' in two unofficial Tests. But the same 'A' team that plays unofficial Tests against West Indies 'A' interestingly comprises five former Test players and more than a few who are active members of the ODI squad.

Surely, including so many players over 30 must be hurting the chances of younger players.