Indian Cricket – The ‘A Team’ Conundrum

If you go around asking any common cricket fan in India what the ‘A team’ is, most people will return looks that would suggest that you may have asked them to speak about the importance of George Bush in global politics and peacekeeping. I am sure that not many people know that there is something called ‘A team’ cricket which is where the best talent outside the national team is picked to play matches and gain some exposure for the harder battles ahead. However, you cannot really fault the average Indian cricket fan. After all there are not too many matches that the ‘A team’ plays! Now, you would ask what does the BCCI do in this regard if ‘A team’ cricket is so important?

Of course, if you ask such a silly question, you don’t realize that the BCCI has more important things to do like not allowing its players to play in other T20 competitions and chalking out how to accommodate newer series so that it can maximize its revenue. You cannot obviously fault them and call them money-minded for this – after all, who are they working for? – for the players, silly! On a more serious note, even on the rarest of occasions if the ‘A team’ is picked, it features several strange and inexplicable picks. Players are picked out of the wild and then they are thrown away after a few unsatisfactory performances. Now, I guess only the selectors can be held responsible for this.

How many of us remember Rituraj Singh? I bet most of us don’t even know about him. Well, during the 2011-12 season, he was one of the leading wicket takers for Rajasthan in their successful Ranji Trophy campaign. The seamer was chosen to represent India ‘A’ in the West Indies tour in 2012 and I am afraid I have not heard of him ever since. My question is why pick a player when you have to throw that person out after just a single tour? This only shows a total lack of planning, confidence and cricketing acumen on part of the selectors.

In my humble opinion, the ‘A team’ is where you should ideally play guys who have represented India but have fallen by the wayside. The ‘A team’ is basically the step before the national team and the players representing this team should be ones who have the hunger to regain the national spot. I know the general tendency among selectors around the world is to treat the ‘A team’ like an extension of the Under 19s but I think it is a wrong approach.

The ‘A team’ can also be a great platform for an out-of-form player to play in international standard competition sans the media attention that comes free with it. Imagine how much benefit a guy like Zaheer Khan can get if he was able to play some ‘A team’ cricket right now, or picture an ‘A team’ batting lineup featuring the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh. They will benefit from this experience and it will help them be ready if and when they are recalled to the national team.

Over here, they can concentrate on working on the various deficiencies that may have crept into their games and keep working and improving and one day also hopefully represent the nation again. At least, for me, it is a better platform than say domestic cricket where runs come fairly easy and the wickets only dent the bowlers’ confidence. However, this form of cricket needs to be arranged frequently enough for it to be meaningful.

In an ideal world, for me, the ‘A team’ in India should be used as a shadow for the national team especially on an overseas tours. This procedure is already being followed with great success by England and South Africa and, to a certain extent, Australia and this is the reason these are the dominant teams of world cricket at present. India has already started the process – it will be sending the ‘A team’ to tour South Africa before the main team tours the country. All that I can say that this will be a positive step for Indian cricket and, if properly followed, will help India achieve greater consistency as a cricket team.