India A showing augurs well for the future - Robin
With four wins, one loss and a draw in the recently concluded Top End Series in Australia, India A returned home with a fine record and a sense of the time to come. After a month-long tour that included competition against the A sides of Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan, Robin Singh, the former Indian allrounder and current A coach, felt his side's performance augured well for the future of Indian cricket.
Speaking to Cricinfo, Robin expressed his satisfaction at India A's preparations and execution. "I thought we not only matched our expectations, we exceeded them," he said. "We outplayed some of the teams. Our preparation was adequate. We had a camp in Hyderabad, but more than that, we had sufficient time in Australia. We had a practice game earlier and a few days to practice and acclimatise. More than the preparation in India, the time we spent in Australia was vital because we spent time playing cricket - it wasn't a very short tour."
In a series that showcased a lot of players for the future, Robin singled out a few. "Gautam [Gambhir] did well, so did Rohit Sharma and Badrinath. Badri got four half centuries, and Tejinder Pal Singh and Parthiv Patel batted well in a few games," he said. "Venugopal Rao batted very, very well. He really looked like he had the most time. His hundred in the warm-up game [against the Northern Territory Chief Minister's XI] was special."
Certain cricketers, such as Gambhir and Robin Uthappa, were given the opportunity to remind the national selectors of what they had to offer. Gambhir, recently dropped from the Indian side, led the batting averages but both he and Robin indicated that they were still a work-in-progress. "They [Gambhir and Uthappa] still have to do a lot more to force themselves back into the national side," he said. "You have to be much more consistent; you have to be pushing guys with big hundreds against better opposition. The opposition there was pretty good, so you had to get bigger scores, that's number one. Apart from being very consistent, the younger guys who batted in the middle order batted exceptionally well."
In a side hit by injury - Siddarth Trivedi and Shib Paul, both fast bowlers, were two of the casualties - India A were left with two main wicket-takers, Rudra Pratap Singh and Piyush Chawla. Robin praised their efforts: "RP and Chawla bowled well and it was an outstanding performance from them" he said. "That said, Piyush needs to be a little more consistent. With the experience he gets in such tournaments, he will only get better. He also needs to work on his legbreaks a little more."
These two strike bowlers aside, Venugopal, the India A captain, was also seen turning his arm over and getting wickets. "That tells you the problem," Robin said. "We didn't have an offspinner, and Australia had five left-handers. We had to use him. In the four-day game, the first five batsmen were all left-handers. We had to somehow get an offspinner going. He bowled quite decently, I felt."
As for the future of the Top End Series, and others like it, Robin felt it was the right step towards building bench strength. "It has lot of future. You will get a lot of international cricketers from these tournaments," he concluded. "Australia put their best side forward in this tournament, it was their second-strength side. They are all contracted cricketers, and they are very serious and they fielded their best team. The same for New Zealand - they had put up two teams, as a matter of fact, because most of their guys are playing for New Zealand. And then you had Pakistan, who had some young guys but most of them have played consistently for Pakistan, as well as in Abu Dhabi. All three teams that we played were all international, successful cricketers who have played and some who are on the verge of playing again."
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo