Indians have a fixed way to deal with a debacle: hoopla, criticism and post-mortem. Discussions about India ‘A’ team’s disastrous performances in the West Indies have already begun.
Former players such as Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar have written about the probable causes. But funnily, the one which is not reacting is the technical committee. Looks like it doesn’t even consider the topic worthy of discussion.
Gavaskar has rightly pointed out that most of the batsmen couldn’t adjust bat-speed because of being used to the shorter format of the game and the coach ought not to have defended the technique of players. Vengsarkar suggests the India ‘A’ team be handled by people of stature. He is irked by the constant replacement of coaches after every India ‘A’ tour. But these are only remedial measures. The first issue should be to make the concept of India ‘A’ effective.
The England and Wales Board (ECB) has handled the ‘A’ concept methodically. The England ‘A’ team is rebranded as the England Lion team which is trained at the High Performance Centre. The chief coach of the England team keeps interacting with the England Lion team management regarding the rotation of players.
The aim of the interaction is to strengthen the skill level of the second string players so that when they are picked for the senior team, they are in a position to perform. Let’s take the example of fast bowler Steve Finn. He follows the fitness regime and the trainer-physio combination ensures that he is physically strong to bowl good number of spells of really quick bowling.
Same is the case of Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara. Once their talent was assessed, they were put through different skill enhancement programmes. Graham Gooch and Graham Thorpe, former England batsmen, worked on these batsmen.
In fact some young batsmen of the England Lion team spent two weeks in Pune with Global Cricket Academy learning the art of playing spin bowling. One of them was Andrew Strauss who was preparing for the Pakistan series.
The concept of High Performance Centre (HPC) that ECB and South Africa have been following is gathering success. And though in India, the NCA was launched in 2000, we are still struggling with the fitness of players.
The NCA looks like a rehabilitation centre where contracted players assemble to get fit. The purpose for which NCA was established is lost. And now with three academies controlling nine associations each, the role of NCA in developing players will be further reduced.
If BCCI too creates a HPC, 25 players could be picked and rotated in four to five tours of India ‘A’. No purpose will be served by continual chopping and changing the team. An experienced coach or a High Performance Manager should be committed to the India ‘A’ team for a minimum of two seasons so that there is some stability.
The HPC at ECB has made sure that the senior England team doesn’t struggle for replacements. And in India, we remain worried about who will replace Rahul Dravid. Instead of asking Virat Kohli to lead India ‘A’ team, the young man was rested after IPL and we watched him play football for his sponsor.
Is this how we groom our captain? Shouldn’t he be appointed captain for all Indian ‘A’ teams so that he is ready to take over from Dhoni when the need arises.
The concept of India ‘A’ team needs to be reworked. We need to remember that India ‘A’ is not just any other team, but the future of Indian cricket.