It's taken a while in coming but the BCCI finally seems to have woken up to the fact that fringe cricketers too need some real cricket to make their case for selection to the India team. And this time, instead of planning one tour at a time, the BCCI is actually contemplating a long-time India A tour strategy.
At the moment, while the main international calendar has been overcrowded — so much so that several international cricketers and the Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA), have protested the scheduling — India’s A tour cupboard at least, has been terribly bare.
India have not had a proper A tour in some 18 months, which, if seen in relation to the frequency of A tours by other countries, is very inadequate. So the plans for the year ahead make a welcome change.
The national selectors will meet on July 4 to pick the A squad for the tour of Zimbabwe. “We are fulfilling our ICC commitments to Zimbabwe,” Prof Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI’s Chief Administrative Officer, told HT. He said that India would play two four-day games in Zimbabwe and then, would probably travel to Kenya for 10-12 days for a four-day game and three ODIs. This though, is yet to be finalised.
After that, is an interesting home series, when a South African team with several Test players, arrive on Sep 10 to play two four-day “warm-up games” with an eye on their tour of Pakistan later in the year. “The Twenty20 World Cup will be on in South Africa and several of their Test players led perhaps by Jacques Kallis, who will not play Twenty20, are expected to play in the games against an Indian side here,” said Shetty.
Those two games could well see several Indian seniors take part also. The top Indian players (at least the 30-plus generation) are not expected to be part of the India Twenty20 squad — many have even privately stated that it is a “game for generation next” and there is no point in their even trying to take some junior’s place, so they could use those warm-up games as practice ahead of the series against Australia and Pakistan.
In a “reciprocal visit”, India A will travel to South Africa in March-April next year for a few four-day games. “We do believe there have to be more A tours to South Africa and Australia and that is the only way forward,” said Shetty.
To this effect, the BCCI is contemplating asking Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa to allow them to have alternate annual tours, at their (the BCCI’s) own cost. “The experience of those conditions will be worth the expense of making it an annual affair, if possible,” said Shetty.
Shetty said that Technical Committee chairman Sunil Gavaskar’s suggestion that India have their A tours to a country coincide with their senior team’s tours — the idea being that ready replacements would also be available, even while they gain experience in similar conditions, was also one way ahead.
Now if the implementation is as good as the planning, then all those waiting to make their India comebacks and those waiting to be discovered, will have ample opportunity to do so.