The England exposure will be beneficial

IT will be an invaluable experience for the India `A' players, when they take on the various English counties this summer.

K. SRIKKANTH

Opener Shiv Sundar Das, the `A' team captain, has a fair amount of international experience. — Pic. K. BHAGYA PRAKASH.-

IT will be an invaluable experience for the India `A' players, when they take on the various English counties this summer. I am happy that the `A' team concept has been taken seriously by the Board.

Cricket is a learning curve and I am sure our young cricketers will benefit greatly from the English summer. It is so important for any country to have a second line of players, who will be on hand to either take over from the senior cricketers, or replace them for shorter periods in the event of injuries.

In any case, with the amount of international cricket being played these days, it becomes extremely important to have a larger pool of players to choose from. You never really know when you would need them.

Take the case of Australia. One of the reasons it is ruling world cricket now is because the side has so many options, so many ready replacements. Australia is a firm believer in `A' tours and the aspirants down under have gained enormously.

There was a phase when our young cricketers were hardly travelling on such tours, which was worrying. Apart from exposing the cricketers to different conditions, this includes pitches with bounce and seam movement, these campaigns also forge a sense of unity among the cricketers.

The youngsters learn the value of touring and playing together as one cohesive unit and this only builds team-spirit. I am sure the cricketing knowledge of our promising players would be enhanced following the `A' tour of England.

Coming to the squad itself, I was surprised to find that the side has only one regular wicket-keeper. I am sure, we could have found somebody to accompany Parthiv Patel on this campaign.

Wicket-keeping has been one of the problem areas for India and though Parthiv has come like a breath of fresh air, we should strive to develop another capable `keeper just in case Parthiv gets injured during a series or a tournament.

It is the right idea to have a cricketer with a fair amount of international experience leading the `A' squad, and I am happy at Shiv Sundar Das being handed over the reins. Das is a compact batsman who has performed well for India as an opener and has plenty of cricket ahead of him.

Hemang Badani has been given responsibility too as the vice-captain and I have always rated him high as a batsman. He has a tendency to deliver when it matters like his century in the Ranji Trophy final. Badani is a shrewd cricketer, who is aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

Given his talent, Badani must have been enormously disappointed at himself for not seizing his chances in the Indian Test and ODI sides. At this stage of his career, I would back him to script his way back.

Sadagopan Ramesh should have been included in the `A' side. To be fair to Ramesh, he has done well for India in the opportunities that he has received. He has, to his credit, made runs in the Ranji Trophy semifinal and final, and this counts far more than runs piled up in the other games.

India still has a problem with openers and the selectors will have to look at Ramesh at some stage. I only hope the left-hander does not get disheartened or discouraged.

Wasim Jaffer's displays in the domestic competitions have been acknowledged by the selectors. He is a sound opener, who has had his moments in international cricket. Gautam Gambhir is the other opener in the squad and the tour will present him with a priceless opportunity to learn the ways to counter the moving ball.

Sridharan Sriram has been picked for his weight of runs in domestic cricket, while leg-spinner and useful batsman Sairaj Bahutule finds himself ignored. Here is a cricketer who has received a raw deal at the hands of the selectors.

Actually, Bahutule is still not too old to be cast away, and should have been given a chance. He bowled particularly well in the latter stages of the Ranji Trophy this season, getting the ball to turn and bounce and revealing the wrong `un in his repertoire.

Though leggie Amit Mishra has been picked, Bahutule could have received the nod in the all-rounder slot. It wouldn't have upset the balance of the squad.

Left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, as expected, finds a place, and this talented bowler may play a major role for India in the days and months ahead. The `A' tour of England should help him gear up for much bigger campaigns and challenges.

A journey to England is always useful to young pacemen. It is here that they can pick up so many aspects of their demanding trade. Avishkar Salvi displayed signs of real promise when he turned out for India in the three-nation tournament at Dhaka.

This is the stage of his career when he has to be groomed in a proper manner. Salvi is sharp, moves the ball around, and should relish operating in England. L. Balaji has, through sheer performance, managed to retain his place in the `A' squad.

We could witness a healthy competition between these two budding pacemen on this tour. This would only bring out the best in them.

Let's not forget the Baroda left-armer Irfan Pathan jr, who was probably unlucky to miss out on the `A' team's tour of the West Indies earlier this season. He is another youngster who has fought hard in domestic cricket, picking up a fair number of wickets. Amit Bhandari is the other paceman in the squad.

Looking at the team, I wonder on what grounds Delhi opener Akash Chopra and Maharashtra middle-order batsman Abhijit Kale were left out, since both had performed exceedingly well on the India `A' tour of the Caribbean.

Are the selectors picking the side on a rotation basis, to accommodate more players on the fringe? Your guess is as good as mine.