Undoubtedly, India ‘A’ cricket catches my fancy like nothing else, more than even an odd international tournament. In fact, I found myself tracking the scores of the India ‘A’ team to England more closely as opposed to the Asia Cup, in which the seniors were engaged in.
In the first game, Yorkshire fielded three teenage debutants against India ‘A’. Obviously, Yorkshire didn’t take this game seriously. After all, it was a sideshow for them and perhaps an unnecessary match scheduled by the ECB. India ‘A’ being the guests could only expect better competition.
But what irked me more, was the India ‘A’ make-up. A couple of players had got a promotion without playing a single first-class game. Apparently, these players were picked on the back of their performances for India Under-19 and Indian Premier League.
Representing their respective states and playing against seasoned campaigners in the Ranji Trophy wasn’t considered important enough while fast-tracking them into the big league.
Representing India ‘A’ is as close as you can get to playing for the country and is perhaps the last litmus test to assess if you’re ready.
The possibility of a player donning India colours without having played even state-level cricket, is preposterous. What kind of message would these selections send to hundreds of players who’re toiling hard in the domestic circuit? In fact, age forging is a serious menace in Indian cricket, which ought to be dealt with seriously and immediately.
The only way to discourage kids from cheating is to make age-group cricket less important. Success at age-group cricket should only take you to real cricket i.e. first-class cricket and must not become a ticket to the highest level. In the current scenario, such out-of-turn-selection and getting decent money in the IPL, is encouraging players to remain under-19 for as long as they possibly can.
An under-19 cricketer in England, representing his country, would only make it to the second XI of his county. And if he’s really talented, he might make it to the first XI at the most, but definitely nothing beyond that.
He wouldn’t even dream of playing for England ‘A’ in the same season, leave alone playing for them first before playing for the county. This cricketer has no reason to stay under-19 using unfair means. In fact the longer he stays under-19, the longer it might take for him to break into the big league.
India ‘A’ should be used as the platform to judge a player’s calibre one last time or for getting the fringe players back into some kind of form.
This tour could have been an ideal opportunity for players like Ishant Sharma, R.P. Singh and Sreesanth to get some less pressure cricket before the Test series against Sri Lanka.