Rahul Dravid, the India A coach, has hailed the "bench strength" being developed for the senior side ahead of next year's World Cup after his players secured victory in the tri-series final on Monday. Led by a strong bowling performance and Rishabh Pant's unbeaten 64, India A overturned England Lions' home advantage for the second time in a week to make it four wins in a row and take the trophy.
Victory at The Oval had several authors, as has been the case all series. Deepak Chahar claimed 3 for 58, including a wicket with the new ball and that of Sam Hain, the Lions centurion; Khaleel Ahmed also picked up three wickets, while only Krunal Pandya, who removed Liam Livingstone for 83, went at more than a-run-a-ball. Pant then sealed the chase with a sprightly half-century, after 40s from Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer laid the platform on a sometimes-tricky pitch.
Overall, India A had four hundreds by three batsmen - Agarwal, with two, was second only to Hain in the run-scoring charts - and four players averaging more than 50. They also piled up a record 458 for 4 in a warm-up match against Leicestershire. With the ball, Chahar claimed 10 wickets at 14.70, while Shardul Thakur, Khaleel and Axar Patel also impressed in unfamiliar conditions.
"I think we've got a really strong bowling attack at the moment, with the India side, a lot of variation and depth, and it's nice to see we've got another batch there in case of injuries"
With the 2019 World Cup taking place in England, Dravid said he had been encouraged by the strides the team had made after losing to the Lions in the opening match of the tri-series at Derby last week.
"A lot of these tours aren't necessarily about winning, but I think the quality of cricket we've played throughout this tournament - except for the first game where we didn't bat particularly well - has been really good," Dravid told ESPNcricinfo. "A lot of the boys have had their first-time exposure to these conditions; we tried to rotate the squad as much as we could and give everyone decent opportunities.
"It's been quite satisfying, some good performances. A tough game today as well, we had to fight back with the ball and the bat - so good to see them fight, good to see them compete in these conditions. Definitely some positives, as well as seeing some of the boys get into the national side as well, irrespective of the result.
"Especially with the World Cup in a year's time, it's nice to have bench strength, for the selectors to know there are good young players if the situation does arise. It's nice to replicate this experience leading into the World Cup, to give these boys some exposure in these conditions."
Chahar, who claimed career-best List A figures of 5 for 27 against West Indies A following an impressive IPL, and Krunal have already been rewarded with maiden calls to the full India squad, for the T20I series against England starting on Tuesday. Dravid was particularly pleased with the performances of the team's pace attack during the tri-series, which he suggested had matched that of the Lions, notably in the final and in their 102-run win in Leicester.
"There's a good bench strength being developed and I think it gives people a lot of confidence that there are players, if the situation arises, who are in good touch and playing well," Dravid said. "Over the last couple of years, we've done really quite well in white-ball cricket at this level, built up quite a few players - so that's a good thing for Indian cricket.
"All the quicks were really good, we rotated the four of them and all of them had their moments and did well in the series. I think we've got a really strong bowling attack at the moment, with the India side, a lot of variation and depth, and it's nice to see we've got another batch there in case of injuries. Especially with the fast-bowling department, you need back-ups and people who can come in - we've got Deepak and Shardul [in India's last series before this tour] joining the national team due to injuries. It's good to see the fast bowlers coming through and almost out-bowl some of the English seamers in these conditions, which is a really good sign for us."