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‘A’ collapso series

Batsmen on threshold for Test selection found wanting on the West Indies tour

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai | Published: June 14, 2012 2:09:44 am

Owing to the absence of television coverage,not to forget the significant time difference between here and the Caribbean,news from India A’s progress against the West Indies has been arriving belatedly. Even so,it has only rarely made for happy reading,especially as far as the batsmen are concerned.

A humbling loss in the second unofficial Test at Arnos Vale,St Vincent notwithstanding,the most disappointing aspect of the nation’s second string over the last 15 days has been the lack of runs from a top-order of reputed names.

As ‘A’ teams go,Rohit Sharma,Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane definitely constitute what can be termed as a star-studded batting line-up. And in all likelihood,the future of the Indian Test team with many of them certain to get a go at some point during the upcoming,packed home season.

Not only have the India A stars failed to live up to their lofty reputations so far— they have not by failing to cross the 300-run mark even once— they have also alarmingly reiterated the trend of Indian batsmen struggling in foreign climes. Their lowly returns against a relatively unknown West Indies A bowling attack in the first two games of the tour have only accentuated the slow starters tag that Pujara & Co have contracted from their seniors.

And the lack of runs from their celebrated fringe players should be a major worrying sign for the national selectors with several senior Indian cricketers on the cusp of retirement. It’s been a difficult task comprehending the combined failure of the batsmen even for coach Lalchand Rajput.

“It is very important for the openers to score. They have not clicked so far. We have the best batting line-up possible here and these boys have the ability to do well,” the former India opener tells The Indian Express.

Rajput is not off the mark. In four innings so far,the top-three comprising Abhinav Mukund,Shikhar Dhawan,and Rahane have totaled just 74 runs together. And the only saving grace,to some extent,have been the performances of Sharma and skipper Pujara,who is the only batsman to have enhanced his reputation on tour. While Pujara is the leading run-scorer for India A with 214 runs,Sharma started off with an aggressive half-century. Manoj Tiwary though is yet to make the most of his starts.

A lot of focus has been bestowed upon the tricky pitches that the visitors have had to play on in Barbados and at Arnos Vale. This is not to undermine the difficulty involved in making a drastic shift from the docile featherbeds dished out during the IPL to the unpredictable West Indian wickets. Nor the extreme change in formats. But these are challenges that Pujara & Co will have to overcome on a regular basis once they have made the grade up to Test cricket. Even the senior team doesn’t possess the luxury of any extended duration of time to adjust in alien conditions.

Tricky pitches

“Rohit,Rahane and Tiwary did fall prey to balls that just kept really low. The two tracks so far have been really challenging for the boys. If these boys have to succeed at the highest level,they have to be ready for such things,” adds Rajput.

Except Pujara of course,who has faced 498 balls so far in his four innings put together. Sharma,Dhawan and Rahane all played starring roles for their respective franchises in the IPL,where they played audacious shots and scored plentiful runs. The real secret to succeeding in Test cricket,especially in foreign conditions,however involves the ability and more so the willingness to last a significant period of time on the wicket.

As Rajput says,“Once they spend more time,the runs will start to come. There is no fault in their technique. Just a matter of application.” And Pujara & Co will get one more chance,in the decider at St Lucia,not just to apply themselves and nick the series,but also to stake a genuine claim to the senior side.

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