June 28, 2010

Indian cricket

The flawed selection of the A team

Aakash Chopra
Ishant Sharma is cock-a-hoop after sending back Chris Gayle in the first over, West Indies v India, 4th ODI, St Lucia, July 5, 2009
The tour would have been ideal for someone like Ishant Sharma to get some less pressure cricket under his belt before the Test series in Sri Lanka  © Associated Press
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Undoubtedly, India A cricket catches my fancy like nothing else, more than even an odd international tournament here and there. In fact, I found myself tracking the scores of the current A team in England more closely as opposed to the tournament in which the seniors were engaged in, in the Emerald Islands. And hence the observations.

In the first game, Yorkshire fielded as many as three teenage debutants in the match against India A. Obviously, Yorkshire didn't take this game seriously. After all it was a side show for them and perhaps an unnecessary match scheduled by the ECB. India A being the guests could only expect better competition. If the hosts decided to play spoilsport, then so be it.

But what irked me more, was the India A team make-up. A couple of players in the side had got a promotion without ever playing a single first-class game. Apparently these players were picked on the back of their performances for the India Under-19 and IPL cricket. Representing their respective states and playing against the 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 quiet preposterous. What kind of message would these selections send to hundreds of players who're toiling hard in the domestic circuit? Wouldn't they rue the fact that they aren't U-19 any more? In fact, age-forging is a serious menace in Indian cricket, which ought to be dealt with seriously and immediately. A lot of efforts, including conducting medical tests, have been made to eradicate it but in reality, we have made very little headway.

In my opinion, 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, which is first-class cricket and must not become a ticket to the highest level. In the current scenario, such out-of-turn-selections and getting decent money in the IPL, is encouraging players to remain U-19 for as long as they possibly can.

An U-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 U-19 using unfair means. In fact the longer he stays U-19, the longer it might take for him to break into the big league. Also this system ensures that their domestic structure is not devalued. In fact, most countries, except a few in the subcontinent, follow the same structure.

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, RP Singh and Sreesanth to get some less-pressure cricket under their belts before the Test series against Sri Lanka.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Keywords: BCCI, Selection

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Posted by Trevor Wills on (July 26, 2010, 15:25 GMT)

Well written article. Mr. Chopra knows what he is talking about as he has good cricketing knowledge. And as far as talent is concerned ask Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken and Brad Williams how good a batsman he is. He was all class here in Australia, the aussie bowlers could not get him out. So stop criticising Aakash.

Trevor Wills Perth Australia

Posted by ut4me87 on (July 9, 2010, 13:07 GMT)

May be some Indian 28 years old are actually older than 28 years that says on on the Birth Certificate. About time we do medical tests (bone growth etc.) before they take part in the age group tournaments.

Posted by Ashok Kumar on (July 8, 2010, 14:43 GMT)

Akash, While I would commend your foresight it must be borne in mind that the Indian A team is a collection of very impressive youngsters. Mukund & Dhawan are brilliant openers with Dhawan showing signs of being the next Sehwag.Rehane, Pujara, Tiwary, Panday show excellent talent of the future Indian middle order and Mithun, Singh, Abdullah are talented pace bowlers at 20 years. The 18 year old fast bowler, Udarkant, shows excellent promise. The Selectors may have a point here. Ishant, RP & Sreesanth are prone to injuries and may be ruled out on that basis.The entire Indian team has a serious fitness issue.Yuvraj has bludgeoning waistline + knee problems, Sehwag has hamstring & shoulder problems, Gambhir & Nehra have just recovered from their injuries, Zaheer is already out,Raina, Dhoni & Sharma also had recent injuries. Based on this fitness record, India A is better off with fit, keen. young 20 year olds. Why are Indian Cricketers so unfit after 28 years - this needs an answer.

Posted by adil on (July 8, 2010, 3:12 GMT)

a very poor team selection i would say..ind'a' team should have players who are in scheme of things for senior squad in the coming 1-2 seasons or players performing superbly in domestic tournaments..with due respect to them i dont think jaskaran singh or udankat are going to get selected as they dont even have much of domestic experience either.with world cup round the corner players who could have been selected for the world cup should have been given a chance.in my opinion ind'a' team should have been:vijay,dhawan,rahane,pujara,pandey,d.karthik,p.patel,pathan,r.p.singh,sreesanth,tyagi,i.sharma,ashwin,chawla,d.kulkarni/a.mithun,a.mukund/s.tiwary

Posted by Akhilesh on (July 7, 2010, 10:09 GMT)

Yes, Mr. Akash Chopra is 100% correct. There is a nucence of over aged cricketers palying in lower group and catching eye of selectors and the genuine cricketers with real age group do not get chance. There are lots of examples with every state cricket association who them selves are feeding this.

Posted by Ashok Kumar on (July 5, 2010, 21:17 GMT)

Akash, You are right On.English Lions are playing a team with player who could not make it to the test level such as Trott, Bopara and so is West Indies with Bravo, Smoth, etc.India should also be sending their true "A" team with player who could not make it to the tests. Dinda, Sharma, Sreesanth amongst pacemen and Chawla, Mishra amongst spin bowlers needed to be in the team. India's bowling is the weakest amongst top 8 countries. Occasions like these are ideal to be exploited.The Indian Selectors have no planned action for future of India. India needs 3 pace & 3 spin bowlers of test class and this is where the Selectors should focus their attention.My India A team: D.Karthik, Kohli, Mukund, Tiwary, Dhawan,Saha, Vijay, Rehane, I.Sharma, Sreesanth, Dinda, Chawla,Ojha,Ashwin,I.Pathan. These are borderline players who are consistently on bench. Give them the chance to show how good they are. Irfan once tipped to replace Kapil is a forgotten man - why banish talented players?

Posted by unmukt chand on (July 4, 2010, 5:58 GMT)

yeah vry true aakash bhaiya...bt i doubt dat if the players dropped 4rm d indian squad or those getting ready for the tour down under are the only ones in the A-side than when will new faces get a chance to showcase their talent...IPL has given a new and a very big platform to everyone...the boys in the A-side hav done enough in the IPL to earn a name and have definitely caught attention...i personally feel that many transformations have taken place with the coming of glamour and money in modern day cricket.and so is the way of the world..everyone likes to see new heroes...and the theory "Old is Gold" has stepped down from cloud nine....a combination of the fringe players coming back to form and the new faces can make up the A-side.bt a huge question mark still remains......!!!

Posted by J.S. on (July 4, 2010, 5:00 GMT)

Interesting to read about age forging. I was just told about this practice not too long ago. I just thought some of these guys were "mature looking" for their published age. Especially several just outside of India in new and upcoming national cricket teams.

Another general observation is that there's always an Arvind (type) who comments on blogs. Yes, Arvind, you're very knowledgeable about composition. And we're all very impressed.

Posted by nazeer on (July 3, 2010, 5:57 GMT)

IPL has become a bench mark for national selection now supported by a not so 'very good' ranji performance, or sometimes no ranji considerations at all. This will kill cricket and also our team india. I dont think so we are going to produce any dravids,sachins or laxmans anymore, because all of these players are sound in their technique and i am sure if dravid is suppose to be on fringe players list for selection during this time, his time will never come, being the player he is. Good bowlers had been sidelined, and new bowlers have been given opportunity at the top level, there are no proper planning for future, the new string of bowlers dont seem to be of international class. rp, munaf, irfan or much better bowlers, experienced and intelligent than the new lot if not the present lot. Purely selection is biased encouraging IPL to be taken seriously.

Posted by Vijay on (July 2, 2010, 14:03 GMT)

Over Age cricketers in age group tournaments is a necessity. look at Abhimanyu Mithun the recent recruit in the long list of Indian fast bowlers from no where he looks 19 or 20 I know him for past 7 years and his real age is around 25 years. Its the local associations who are encouraging these kind of players to hide there age and play. Its really disappointing not to see Munaf RP Ishant and Sreesanth in the A team,

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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