The first batch of 24 trainees for the National Cricket Academy, which is to be inaugurated at Bangalore on May 1, contains a mixture of established young cricketers, those who are on the way up, players who have done well in the domestic circuit and a few who could be called selectorial `hunches'.
Among the 24, three - Mohd Kaif, Murali Karthik, and Harbhajan Singh - have played Test cricket. Kaif, a middle order bat, after leading the Indian Under-19 side to victory to the World Cup in Sri Lanka in January, made his debut against South Africa at Bangalore. Murali Karthik, a left arm spinner, played in two Tests against South Africa. Harbhajan Singh, an off spinner, is not yet 20 but has played in eight Tests. Sridharan Sriram, who is also in the list, made his ODI debut against South Africa besides being a member of the Indian team in Sharjah. Laxmi Ratan Shukla has also played in three ODI's.
Though some of the trainees have played cricket at the international level, their inclusion is to be welcomed. In the first place, all of them are young and secondly, none of them are really established and a stint at the academy would do much to hone their skills.
The teenagers who did well during the Indian under-19 team's campaign in Sri Lanka have been rewarded and there are places for Yuvraj Singh, Ajay Ratra, RS Sodhi, Anup Dave and Saulabh Srivastava. A welcome inclusion is the promising fast bowler Zaheer Khan.
The in form players among the 24 include Niraj Patel and M Diwakar (members of the victorious Indian under-19 team), SS Das, Romesh Powar, Nikhil Haldipur, Sarandeep Singh, and Anshu Jain, besides of course Sriram, who made over 1000 runs in the Ranji Trophy this season.
The list includes three bowlers from Kerala - T Yohannan, Fazal Mohammed and Prashant Chandra Menon. They seemed to have impressed the Indian coach Kapil Dev when they bowled to the team on the eve of the first one day international against South Africa in Kochi last month.
The NCA committee is likely to announce a second batch soon, this time in the age group 16 to 19.
The selected players:
Coaches: Roger Binny & Vasu Paranjpe