One cannot quite remember the last time two India ‘A’ teams figured in international action almost simultaneously and a third – India Under-23 team – also in battle, like we witnessed in the past month.
Is it a reflection of the amount of young talents that Indian cricket possesses?
Two of the teams returned successful, while the third – the Abhishek Nayar-led ‘A’ team – is currently playing New Zealand ‘A’ in an unofficial Test series at home.
The U-23 side led by Suryakumar Yadav won the ACC Emerging Team Cup in Singapore, but also impressive was the Cheteshwar Pujara-marshalled ‘A’ team in South Africa, where they won the tri-series that featured the hosts and Australia ‘A’. They also went 1-0 up in the two-Test series against South Africa ‘A’ before losing the next.
It is a comforting sign that the country is capable of putting up three quality line-ups, given the rebuilding phase that India’s batting department is in.
The willow line-up is yet to wear a settled look following the retirement of stalwarts Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag past his prime, and there certainly will be a huge void with Sachin Tendulkar expected to call time on his two-decade-old career after the two-Test home series against the West Indies in November.
While MS Dhoni’s men have been pretty successful in the shorter formats of the game, their Test recent record, particularly overseas, has been poor – whitewashed by both England and Australia. The home series win over Australia this year helped salvage some pride after Alistair Cook’s England won a four-Test series 2-1.
Five of the batsmen in the ‘A’ team that toured South Africa are certainties in the main Test squad, as India are scheduled to kick off their away tours with a trip to South Africa in November, and competition appears to be hotting up for the spots in the middle-order.
Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina sounded a remainder to selectors that there are capable of making the transition from limited-overs to Test cricket by notching up centuries in the first Test. Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu were given a look-in in the second.
But it certainly does appear that the National selection committee has a wide range to choose from, if need be, given the Indian Board’s recent focus on ‘A’ tours.
And players most certainly cannot take their spots for granted, as opener Murali Vijay pointed out the other day when he said: "With so much competition for every spot, one’s got to keep proving that you are good enough."
It is a good time to be in for the likes of young Unmukt Chand, Manprit Juneja, VA Jagadeesh or a Vijay Zol, all currently playing against New Zealand ‘A’, who certainly have a lot to look forward to.