The cricket boards of the two countries are as different as chalk and cheese when it comes to comparing revenue they generate from selling telecast rights. But in terms of planning development programmes, Sri Lanka is trying to do something yet to be tried in India.
The ‘A’ team from the Emerald Island is in India for the Duleep Trophy and the most striking part about the side is not that it has become the first foreign outfit to reach the final of the tournament. Sri Lanka A has a coach, a physio, a trainer, a masseur and — most importantly — a well defined playing programme.
They have a pool of 20 players from which the ‘A’ team is picked apart from a separate pool of 20 which supplies players to the senior national side. They train in Colombo when they are not playing the domestic first-class competition and wherever the ‘A’ team plays, one of the four national selectors accompanies it and finalises the playing XI.
Compare this with India. The A team has never had a planned calendar after coming into existence a few years ago, there is no full-time coach and hence no question of a dedicated support staff and, at present, no one knows what’s next for India ‘A’ after a tournament in Abu Dhabi in April.
Irrespective of who runs it, the BCCI picks ‘A’ teams shortly before it plays somewhere, a coach is appointed just for the tournament and after that, no one really cares much about how this ‘A’ team programme should evolve or whether India needs it at all. The A team remains a stepson, being brought up in an atmosphere that can’t be compared with the senior side.
The BCCI has an answer. “Matches featuring the A team are important but we can’t let them affect our domestic competitions,” said secretary Niranjan Shah. “At the moment we don’t have anything lined up, but we are on the lookout. There have also been talks of having a dedicated support staff.”
Those involved with the Sri Lanka ‘A’ team can speak with a far better idea of the future. “The ‘A’ team follows a calendar and we will go to England and the West Indies next year,” said coach Chandika Hathurasinghe who was handed a three-year contract in September.
The former opening batsman, who has also coached the UAE, added that ideally, there should be four series every year. “Two home and two away. It’s important to play away from home if we have to nurture these players into able replacements for those in the senior side.”