National Cricket Academy trainees, Rakesh Patel, Rohit Jhalani and Anshu Jain may be short on fame but they are certainly not wanting in enthusiasm and determination as conversations with them quickly reveal. They probably haven't done enough yet to be considered India prospects, not by a long shot, and are decidedly lucky to have made the cut. But having said that, they certainly seem to have the fire to prove a point to the cynics and of course, with the avowed intent of the coaches to sift out those who fail to shape up, the onus is on them to confirm that they are indeed good investments.

Twenty one year old Baroda all rounder Patel affirmed his intention to put in some hard work at the academy. Hailing from a small village outside Baroda, Patel said when he first took up the game, he'd never imagined he would come this far. He had a moderately successful Ranji season with 178 runs at 35.6 and 18 wickets to boot. His most important contribution came in the Super League tie against Railways where he made a vital unbeaten 53 to help Baroda (495/9 at one stage) surpass their opponents first innings total of 506 and take first innings points. A handy medium pacer, Patel opens the bowling for Baroda in tandem with Zaheer Khan, another trainee at the NCA, and his priorities are to raise his pace and at the same time discipline himself to bowl a good line and length. He said that Baroda, which finished second in the West Zone league, had a well balanced side, with a good blend of youth and experience. In the Super League, Baroda came a cropper in their last game against Hyderabad after leading on first innings and Patel attributed the loss to the turning track prepared at Secunderabad and the poor shot selection by Baroda's batsmen. His immediate goals are to make it to the Duleep and Deodhar squads next year and use that as a springboard to take a tilt at higher laurels.

Opener Anshu Jain and wicket keeper Rohit Jhalani are key members of the Rajasthan squad that found itself in rather forbidding company in Group A of the Super League. Along with Ajay Ratra and Thilak Naidu, Jhalani, also 21, provides a youthful alternative to some of the aging pretenders who are presently holding sway over the keepers slot. With 20 dismissals this season, he finished joint fifth in the keepers standings but his batting will have to improve beyond recognition before he can entertain loftier ambitions. Jhalani rates his effort against Mumbai in the Super League this season as his most memorable yet, bagging six victims in the first innings and making a crucial 32 that helped Rajasthan avoid the follow on. Describing his first two days in the camp, he said it was a great moment when Rodney Marsh offered him some wicket keeping tips. Kiran More and Syed Kirmani are the idols of this unassuming young man who also professes to be a fan of Adam Gilchrist ("he's too good").

Anshu Jain started off by saying this had been a good season for him but later revised his estimate from good to average. Into his fourth season now, although not a regular in the beginning, Jain finished second in the averages for Rajasthan with 490 runs at 40.83, including a hundred against Bengal at the Eden Gardens. Asked about the experience of going one on one against four heavyweights in the Super League, Jain welcomed the opportunity to prove his skills against India bowlers and said that he enjoyed the competition. With the opening spot being another perennial source of bother, Jain, 20, has a nook available to step into if he continues on his upwardly mobile curve. Whichever way the coin drops, these boys certainly cannot complain of being given short shrift at this highly impressionable stage of their careers.