The India A puzzle: Youngsters, not Mishra and Ojha, need to be given a shot

On Thursday, Indian selectors announced that Amit Mishra was selected in the squad for India’s tour of Sri Lanka as the third spinner. The morning after, Bishen Singh Bedi took to Twitter to tell the ‘Five wise men’ that if the Indian spin cupboard is so empty, the legendary quartet needs to get into shape and be ready for an imminent recall.

Typical cutting humour from Bishen paaji, but the comment is also a reflection of the current reality.

Sunil Gavaskar, who has been vocal about the spinner- situation too, told NDTV after Mishra’s inclusion: “For the past few years, we have struggled to find quality spinners. One reason could be the kind of pitches we are offering for Ranji Trophy matches. We leave a lot of grass on these Ranji pitches and that does not help quality spinners come through.”

 The India A puzzle: Youngsters, not Mishra and Ojha, need to be given a shot

File picture of Amit Mishra. AFP

Ah, the emptiness of Indian spin cupboard. From EAS Prasanna, Srinivas Venkatraghavan, B Chandrasekhar, Bishen Singh Bedi, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh (at his peak) to having to resort to giving SOS calls to Harbhajan Singh (the current version) and Amit Mishra, because there are no other viable options.

But what is baffling is, when the situation is apparent to everyone involved, why pick Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha for the India A match against Australia A? If the young spinners in India are not getting enough opportunities to force their way into reckoning for national duty, the obvious place to start is the ‘A’ team, against quality International opponents.

Make no mistake, this is no reflection on Mishra or Bhajjis’ talent or how they will perform on the upcoming Sri Lankan tour. The fact of the matter is these two veteran spinners are the best options the selectors have on talent or form.

When Harbhajan Singh was called up earlier last month Firstpost had said that, despite his ordinary Ranji returns, it was a sensible call considering the paucity of off-spinner options.

Fast forward a month and the same holds true for leg-spinners, as an injury to Karn Sharma made the selectors call up 32-year-old Amit Mishra, who last played a Test in 2011. That the 27-year-old Karn Sharma himself has an average First Class record – 73 wickets in his 56 innings at an average of32.71 – says a lot about the current scenario.

The selectors have a point when they dismiss age as being a criterion to represent India and prioritizing fitness and form. Players should be picked on their merit.

But did the selectors really need to look at Mishra and Ojha again after their performances in the Ranji and IPL, just to make up their mind for the Sri Lanka tour? Playing against an opponent like Australia A could have tested the mettle of the Kuldeep Yadavs, Axar Patels, Pervez Rasools and Shreyas Gopals.

And would Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha really benefit from the mentorship of Rahul Dravid the new India A coach? They were teammates not too long ago and it’s difficult to imagine what playing under his leadership would accomplish, that a simple phone call or tete-a-tete wouldn’t.

Rahul Dravid has also spoken about how excited he is about mentoring youngsters coming up through the ranks because he genuinely enjoys nurturing young talent.

“I have put forward what I think might be the best structure to help the A team and the Under-19 team and in the end help the player and give them the best environment and best opportunity that gives them the best chance to be able to put in performances that help their future, their careers and bring on the next generation of young Indian cricketers,” Dravid had said after his appointment as the India A and Under-19 coach.

“I think it is really exciting because it has been an area I have always been interested in. I feel it is a very important stage of development of a lot of cricketers, having been through myself,” added Dravid.

Even one of the ambits of the much-publicised BCCI Advisory Committee was creating a "pathway" to track young cricketers’ career from under-19 to India-A to the international team and a means to improve the quality of Indian spinners.

Of course, Ojha and Mishra, have put in an excellent shift in the first innings against the Australian reserve side at Chepauk in the ongoing unofficial Test match. But this feels like a platform that could have been better utilized with the few remaining options in the quickly emptying cupboard.

Updated Date: Jul 24, 2015 15:23:05 IST