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Feature

India A takeaways - Umran needs work, but Patidar and Saurabh look the part

Tilak Varma and Mukesh Kumar were also impressive in the rain-affected series against New Zealand A

Ashish Pant
19-Sep-2022
Rajat Patidar plays the swivel pull during his century, Mumbai vs Madhya Pradesh, Ranji Trophy 2021-22 final, Bengaluru, June 25, 2022

Rajat Patidar hit two centuries in four innings  •  PTI

Close to three years after last playing on home turf, India A were back in action over the past few weeks, taking on New Zealand A. Rain affected the first two red-ball games, before India A took the third game by 113 runs in Bengaluru. Here's a look at the Indian players who made a mark during the series.
Patidar aces the India A test
It's been an incredible few months for Rajat Patidar. After good runs for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy and in the IPL with Royal Challengers Bangalore, he showcased his knack for scoring big runs for India A, a level arguably between the Ranji and the national side. On his India A debut, Patidar scored two centuries in four innings to finish with 319 runs at an average of 106.33. His tally was only second to Joe Carter's 347.
Patidar's ability to convert starts into big ones stood out; it's always a good sign.
"If I have to do well in red-ball cricket, I need to understand its parameters - like the change in bat speed, which is pretty high in T20 cricket," he said during the series. "So, overall, it's a mental thing. Depends on how you look at it."
Calmness is another mental thing that he scores high on, across formats. In this series, Patidar looked unruffled at all times, even when tested with short deliveries, and a few verbal volleys, from the New Zealand quicks. And he has the runs to show now.
Saurabh's stocks continue to rise
Saurabh Kumar was in the XI for the rain-hit second game, and ended up doing all his bowling only in the third one, where he picked up nine wickets to end as the joint-highest wicket-taker of the series alongside Indian quick Mukesh Kumar.
There seemed to be a buzz around him each time he bowled, and Saurabh picked up crucial wickets. He ended the Mark Chapman-Sean Solia 114-run stand on day two to trigger a collapse, which gave India A the first-innings lead. On the final day, with the game seemingly headed towards a draw, he was at it again, striking regularly to send New Zealand from a stable 197 for 3 to 302 all out with a five-for.
On the evidence here, it looks like he doesn't rely on the surface a lot, and is more the sort of spinner who keeps probing away until the batter makes a mistake. It works for him, as 219 wickets at an average of 24.54 in 51 first-class games show. It's these numbers that also got him into the national squad for the tour of Sri Lanka in February.
Umran needs red-ball work
Umran Malik had played just three first-class games heading into this series, and his inexperience showed. There wasn't much to do in the second fixture, but in the last one, he was off radar by a fair bit.
The speed, as expected, was good, but he missed his lengths often, and was guilty of spraying the ball both sides of the wicket. He also struggled with no-balls. Umran bowled six no-balls in ten overs in the first innings - including four in his second over - and ten in the second.
"Everybody knows he is not a ready cricketer," Sitanshu Kotak, the India A coach, said of Umran. "He is here for us to help him develop and get better with the red ball. He is part of the one-day series also. From four overs to ten overs, we'll see what difference there is. Just by playing Ranji Trophy, he won't be groomed as well as that support he gets here."
New faces emerge
India A had four debutants during the series: Mukesh, Yash Dayal, Patidar and Tilak Varma. Dayal picked up a niggle and only played the first game. But the other three all had a say at some stage in the three games. Mukesh picked up nine wickets, including a five-for on the first day of the series. Tilak scored 121 in the first innings of the opening game, while Patidar was one of the best performers for India A.
"What I felt in the first game, Mukesh looked a bit wayward. Second and third games, he was on the dot, he was bowling on the off stump," Kotak said. "He got wickets in the first game as well, but he looked much better in the second and third games. Rajat, first time playing for India A, 178 [176], and now hundred [109*] again. Tilak got a hundred in his first game, Yash bowled well [two wickets in his only game]."

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo