Some positive signs emerge

INDIA `A' completed a successful tour of England, and I must compliment the team for staying undefeated. There were some positive signs from an Indian perspective.

K. SRIKKANTH

Parthiv Patel could offer a lot to Indian cricket in the times to come. — Pic. VINO JOHN-

INDIA `A' completed a successful tour of England, and I must compliment the team for staying undefeated. There were some positive signs from an Indian perspective.

However, I would have been happier had the Indians played some matches against England `A' and not just the counties apart from a game against the South Africans.

Now, this cannot be held against a side, which can only take on teams it is slated to play against. But had it tested its skills against a stronger opposition, it would have enabled us to gain a better idea about the performances.

I have always been a firm advocate of the `A' tour concept. These tours give players a feel of the international competition before bigger battles. The cricketers can get used to the differing conditions, apart from preparing themselves mentally.

In that sense, the contemporary young cricketers are lucky that they get to play at a level just below that of Tests and ODIs, before they actually get selected for them. This just didn't happen in our time, and the `jump' we had to make was longer.

But then, if the `A' team is only going to play against some of the counties, then much of the purpose in undertaking these tours would be lost. Would an England `A' team visit India and meet just Ranji Trophy outfits? I doubt it.

Under the circumstances, it would be unwise to be carried away by the numbers. At the same time, having gone on such a campaign, it would be unfair for us to ignore the performances.

It is crucial that we adopt a balanced approach while assessing the displays of our future stars, especially given the fact that the standard of county cricket has dropped sharply.

One of the tasks before us, ahead of what could well be a demanding season, is finding the right pair of openers.

During the tour, the runs from the blades of Wasim Jaffer, Gautam Gambhir and Shiv Sundar Das would have made the selectors happy.

Sairaj Bahutule can well be the answer to some of India's problems. — Pic. N. BALAJI-

The experiment of promoting young Parthiv Patel up the order also worked, and here is an extremely talented young cricketer, who could offer a lot to the Indian cricket in the times to come.

Patel has the right technique against the quicker bowlers, and his sound temperament is another asset. The amount of exposure he is receiving at such a young age is bound to stand him in good stead.

Sridharan Sriram, after recovering from an injury, made runs in the limited opportunities that he received, so did Rohan Gavaskar. Hemang Badani, also the captain for the limited overs contests, had a good tour, especially in the shorter version of the game.

Paceman Amit Bhandari, who has had a chequered career so far, was among the wickets, and this would do his confidence a world of good. Avishkar Salvi sent down a few good spells, and I gather L. Balaji and Irfan Pathan Jr. bowled well without much luck.

The pitches in England afford less assistance to the pacemen these days and we also have to take into account the fact that the English summer has been pretty hot this time. However, it would have been better if any one of the pacemen, despite the conditions, had produced a match-winning burst. India needs bowlers who can run through sides.

Spinners, left-armer Murali Kartik and leggie Amit Mishra, returned with reasonable records, and both may have a lot of work ahead of them with Anil Kumble in probably the last leg of his career.

Though there was much to cheer about from the `A' tour, there were some non-performers, and I am surprised that all of them have found a place in the pre-season conditioning camp in Bangalore. This is baffling.

While good performances have to be recognised, we have to be firm with those who have not delivered, especially, if there are others, possibly, better candidates in the wings. This is where the selectors have to make a judgment.

The selectors have to first pick a group of cricketers they believe in. Cricketers they feel have the right talent and attitude. An assessment has to be made. Then they have to see whether there are slots to fit them in the Indian team.

There is little point in having too many middle-order batsmen, or too many spinners. The idea is to find the right mix. Players, who will meet the demands of the side.

Looking at the probables, I feel a place could have been found for some players, who have performed for India in the past and are now on a comeback trail. Opener Sadagopan Ramesh is one of them.

At the beginning of the season, the search continues for all-rounders, and hardly anyone appears in sight. The time has come for tough decisions from the selectors.

They have to do away with bits and pieces men, however, we see a fair share of them in the Bangalore camp. Having said this, it is heartening that Sairaj Bahutule, who can be an extremely useful cricketer if the captain displays faith in him, figures in the list of probables.

Here is a cricketer who has not received the best of deals, and all I can say is — it is better late than never. Bahutule can be the answer to some of India's problems with his steady leg-spin and handy left-handed batting. He is more than a bits and pieces man.

This promises to be an interesting season. And some of the aspirants have a wonderful chance indeed to make their presence felt in the international arena.