India A in the West Indies June 20, 2012

Disappointed, but not panicking - India A coach


Lalchand Rajput, the coach of the touring India A side in the West Indies, is disappointed the fancied batting line-up didn't click as a unit, but is not alarmed about the future of India's middle order after a side full of Test aspirants failed to reach 300 in any of the innings of the three first-class matches against West Indies A. The sheer amount of international experience in India A's middle order - Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary - made them favourites going into the series, but none of them scored a century, and India A lost the series even after having won the first match.

"It's fair to say we didn't think the series would go this way," Rajput said from Port-of-Spain where the limited-overs leg of the tour will commence. "They bowled really well too. Delorn Johnson took 17 wickets in the series, and Jason Holder was good as well. Ours was a strong batting line-up that never clicked as a unit. The conditions were difficult, but we should have done better."

India A's first two wickets invariably yielded little, and the middle order always found itself under pressure and exposed to the new ball. In the six innings, the first two wickets added respectively 0 and 1, 4 and 8, 1 and 11, 14 and 14, 16 and 16, and 22 and 1. "We were a very strong batting unit," Rajput said. "But we never clicked together. In six innings we never had an opening stand. We were always 20 for 3 or 30 for 3. If you want a big score, the top three have to fire."

Those who followed gave a relatively better account of themselves: Pujara crossed fifty thrice, Wriddhiman Saha twice, and Rohit and Tiwary once each. One of Pujara's fifties was a special effort of 96 in the chase of 186 in the first match, in Barbados, after the visitors had been reduced to 77 for 6 and 115 for 8. India A would have hoped to carry some momentum and psychological edge into the next match, but losing the toss proved crucial on a pitch that was turning square on the fourth morning. Put in on a damp morning in the third match, the India A top order came up short once again, and even Pujara, who had scored three half-centuries in four innings until then, was run out before he could make a difference.

The first-class matches of this tour were particularly important for the young Indian batsmen after Rahul Dravid's retirement earlier this year. The selectors won't get to watch another first-class match before they pick the team for the first of the 10 Tests this home season. Rajput said there was no need to panic, and that this tour was an important experience for the youngsters.

"It's actually good that we are exposing them in conditions abroad before they get into the Test side," Rajput said. "It will help them. They'll know what to expect when they go abroad. It's a good idea for them to get exposure at an early stage in their career.

"They should know relatively early that playing abroad is different. They now know what they need to work on. Life is difficult when you go and play abroad. You have to work hard. Still they are sound players. Don't write them off based on this tour."

Pujara's temperament, Saha's keeping, Rohit's start, and the surprise package, Bengal quick Shami Ahmed, were the positives of the series, Rajput said. "Pujara's in Bridgetown was one of the best innings I have ever seen," Rajput said. "When you lose eight wickets, you put together that partnership to win the Test, it was tremendous. He showed a lot of character and temperament. Top performance."

The man who stood alongside Pujara during that match-winning effort was Ahmed, who impressed Rajput a lot. "He is strong, bowls at a sharp pace, and throughout the day," Rajput said. "Even in the third spell of the day, he bowls around 140kmph. Even when batting he doesn't give up. You have to get him out. He is one bowler to watch out for."

Saha showed similar resilience, Rajput said, scoring two fifties in tough batting conditions. His keeping on tough pitches was impressive too. Rohit got 94 in the first innings of the tour, but never kicked on after that. It summed up India A's effort: "They got starts, but couldn't convert them. Had they converted them, the story would have been different."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jaswant on June 23, 2012, 1:51 GMT

    This is a young team with tremendous potential.Some of these names will soon be big in world cricket.Ahmed,Rohit Sharma,Pujara,Rahane,Tiwary ,they will all represent India in the future.

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Dinesh Karthik should now be a regular in all forms of cricket. And certainly in test cricket. He can open, bat in middle order too and a better wicket keeper than Dhoni. The Indian captain can be in the team as a late middle order batsman and a captain. Mukund does not deserve any chance more. So also Rohit sharma.

  • Mehul on June 22, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    @Ryan- Some stats for Dhoni since Dec 2010. 13(M) 598(R) 90(HS) 27.18(A). Also his main work of keeping has also dropped below the good standard, which will not be covered by the stats. Yes, he keeps and captains. But the standards have to be maintained. Same yard stick for all! Cant blame too much cricket,etc. India had many fighters like Dravid, Kumble, Kapil Dev, Robin. He has brought good changes in Indian team no doubt, but i don't see them maintained, feel Test cricket going down. Finally no grudges, just observations and thoughts!

  • Mehul on June 22, 2012, 4:27 GMT

    @Ryan-First of all its not against Dhoni. I respect him for his coolness and record. I vividly remember his initial years. But have you watched him in tests? His approach and captaincy? I dont think his spirit is there nor the planning upto the mark. His technique has been found wanting in good bowling conditions His captaincy is way too defensive for test cricket. I mentioned for tests, not for ODIs. Ahh... the main batsmen themselves are not upto the mark in last couple of series, nor the bowlers!They doing their job first is important! Support in terms of fighting spirit is needed.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    why do they even play T20, aren't they bored of IPL

  • Ashok on June 21, 2012, 17:42 GMT

    Mr. Rajput, most of the Indian fans are disappointed as well. There is no need for panic because this is only an Indian team & not necessarily the best India A team. Of course the 4 star batsmen failed & the openers flopped badly. India never produced an opener like Sunil Gavaskar. He toured WI with the Indian test team in 1971 at the age of 21 - made his test debut, with an aggregate of 774 runs in 4 test with 3 centuries & a double century + 3 scores in 60's - average 154!. Although this India A team has some talent but none can even come close to the Genius of Gavaskar - who faced fast bowlers like Holder, Shillingford & Sobers. None of the 4 stars- Rohit, Rahane, Tiwary & Pujara got a single century. These are good batsmen but not in the same class as Gavaskar, who had the best technique, defence & concentration. If any Indian batsman had Gavaskar's technique, surely he would have scored centuries & won the series easily. India needs that kind of talent to succeed on overseas soil.

  • o on June 21, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    I meant to say HARSH conditions ? the last 2 wickets are Asian in every aspect" slow and low" - I was amazed India didn't even make a contest Rohit SHarma has to be the biggest disappointed he looked to have so much talent but I guess smashing some IPl bowlers on small boundaries does not translate to a more serious format. It's not all India are bad though as Indians on here are stating the young WEST INDIES pace bowlers have some serious talent as do the young batsman Powell and BraITHWAITE in particular I'm sure the shorter version will be closer contest.

  • o on June 21, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    POOR CONDITIONS ? That is a BAD excuse as both ST LUCIA and ST VINCENT are identical of slow Indian / Asian tracks the first game they just managed to win was at Barbados which is the fastest track out there.

  • Muthuvel on June 21, 2012, 14:18 GMT

    Rahane's serious inadequacies in batting technique were exposed by second line WI bowlers. He is definitly not fit for test status any time soon. Shami is the find an other 140k indian bowler, Pujara prooved that he can get into to the seniors team and struggle instead of the older guys there, pujara can struggle and lose better than some of the other worser players who struggle and lose. nohti sharma should probably retire as a player with great potiential.

  • P Subramani on June 21, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    There will be prophets of doom huddled in all corners with India A having lost the series. But what people must understand is that out of this team only about 3 or 4 are going to be important members of the team of the future. I simply have no doubt that Pujara, Shami Ahmed,Saha and Awana will be there either in the Tests or the ODIs.Rahane is too good a batsman to fail continuously. He was unlucky on two occasions quite distinctly.I would much rather take as a parameter his early baptism in the ODIs in England last year as being his true mettle.He played superbly against all the English bowlers and that is what gives me hope that this tour was just an aberration for him.He must bat at No 3 though simce I am a believer in such things as numbers.Mandip and Suriya Yadav would have been good investment.Rohit is definitely talented but he should not imagine himself as a great already.That may be what is coming in his way.I am sure that Pujara is good captain material despite this loss.

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