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Time to bring Indian cricket’s ‘A’ game forward, taking a cue from New Zealand?

Indian cricket team’s winning run at home makes for great viewing but looking ahead at bigger challenges, including the 2019 World Cup, more juniors can be given a taste of international cricket in familiar conditions. New Zealand Cricket did that for their upcoming tour of India.

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Oct 07, 2017 18:50 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Indian Cricket Team,Virat Kohli,Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant has been a notable absentee for Indian cricket team’s three-T20I series against Australia. (Twitter/ Mid-Wicket )

Indian cricket team’s fantastic run in the last one year has made it the side everyone looks up to. However, for a change, the Virat Kohli-led squad can take a cue from New Zealand in preparing the team for a bigger prize – the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.

New Zealand cricket has taken a unique step. While Kiwi selectors have picked nine in the 15-member squad for the India tour starting on October 22, they have kept as many as six spots open for New Zealand ‘A’ team members now playing in India.

(Read | Jasprit Bumrah happy to link up with ‘helpful’ Ashish Nehra for Ranchi T20 vs AUS)

In August, BCCI chief selector MSK Prasad had said ‘by end of the year’ the World Cup core group will be shortlisted and that 22 to 25 players are in their mind.

New faces for Sri Lanka series

So, the Sri Lanka home series in December might be the last opportunity for players to find a place among the probables. In all, the players have six ODIs (3 vs New Zealand in Oct-Nov and 3 vs SL) in 2017 to impress selectors. India will also play six T20Is in the period against the same opponents.

(Read | Ashish Nehra says he can play two more years for Indian cricket team)

The question is whether all the youngsters playing for India A and in tournaments like Duleep Trophy will get a fair run in the senior national team to stake a claim to be among the World Cup probables.

Kuldeep, Yuzvendra click

The Australia (home) and Sri Lanka (away) series have shown what youngsters like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal can achieve. More injunction of young blood can only benefit the team. And testing them in home conditions would be ideal.

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If the current Indian cricket squad against Australia is taken into account, with the addition of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane, 18 of those 25 players select themselves. For the seven-odd spots left, it would be interesting see if the selectors give a chance at the senior level to as many youngsters as they can.

Kiwi way

The incentive is pretty high for the Kiwi ‘A’ team players as they will get a great opportunity to test themselves against the world’s No 1 ODI team in the upcoming series.

However, for India ‘A’ - 11 members out of 14, who are playing in the ODI series aginst New Zealand ‘A’, are yet to get a national call-up. There are several players in the Duleep Trophy too like Ishan Kishan, the former India U-19 team skipper, who have shown potential.

(Read | India vs Australia: Steve Smith’s exit from cricket tour said due to hitting woes)

In the India ‘A’ squad, Shardul Thakur and Karn Sharma are the only ones to have featured in ODIs, the latter having played more than a year back. Rishabh Pant (away T20Is vs WI) has also shown a great temperament.

Young performers

Middle order and Dhoni’s No 1 back-up as wicketkeeper are areas in which India need more options. While the middle-order has been unstable, India’s No 2 ODI wicketkeeper is yet to be identified. Pant though seems to have an edge.

Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Siraj and Shahbaz Nadeem are some other players who have done well in domestic tournaments as well as for India ‘A’.

With India set to play two more home series in 2017, it would be interesting to see if the national selectors bring in major change in the squads.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 17:49 IST