"Having A team tour before national side tours opens up possibilities"

Coach of the India A and Under-19 teams, Rahul Dravid, feels that it would be highly beneficial for both the team and the players if the board were to organise shadow tours for the A team alongside the national team.

India A have been in England since mid-June, and have added valuable experience under their belts. After a couple of practice games, India A played a tri-series that also involved Windies A and England Lions, and followed that up with three unofficial Tests (two against Windies A and one against Lions). The tour not only gave the players in the reckoning for the spot in the Indian team to prove themselves in testing conditions, but also offered the regulars such as Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane some game-time ahead of the Tests against England.

Speaking to BCCI.tv, Dravid said that such tours just before the national team is due to play in the country, not only opens up opportunities in terms of preparation, but also pushes the players to play their best knowing a spot in the national team could come calling.

“It is a great idea to have shadow tours. It may not be always possible, but whenever it is possible, it is highly beneficial. A lot of players have joined the national side from this team. It also gave an opportunity to Ajinkya Rahane and M Vijay to come down and spend time with us and play a practice game that was competitive and tough.

“Having the India A team tour before the national side opens up many possibilities in terms of preparations for both the sides. It also serves as motivation for many players, for they know when they do well on A tours, they will be picked in the national team,” Dravid said.

Dravid opined that A tours offer the selectors a better view of players’ capabilities and performances, while the players stand to gain a lot even if they do not make the grade for the national team.

“We are now organizing more A tours and it gives them an opportunity and also the selectors an opportunity to look at them and rotate the squad. For me, the A tours are a step up from domestic cricket. It is really a good barometer for them and the selectors to see whether they can perform or not.

“If they don’t do well it is still a good opportunity to learn and go back to domestic cricket and work on the things they need to. It is a very good buffer to have in between, as you don’t get exposed at the Test level. It gives a very good test of where these boys are and an understanding of the skills that need to be worked on both in bowling and batting.”

One such player who made the most of the A tour was wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant. The left-hander was called up for the Test squad to play England. Dravid said Pant’s most impressive display during the A tour was to prove that he could play according to the situation, and not just stick to his all-out attacking approach.

“Rishabh was quite excellent on the tour. He is obviously a very talented player. He showed in three or four innings that he was willing to bat differently. We all know the way he bats. Even in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season when he got over to 900 runs his S/R was 100 plus and we have seen him bat similarly in the IPL as well. On this trip, we challenged him a lot to bat according to the situation. He got a critical 64 (not out) in the one-day final when he was the last recognized batsman and also against West Indies A when he put on a 100-run partnership with Jayant Yadav,” Dravid said.

“He showed that he could bat differently. He has the temperament and skills to bat differently. He is always going to be an attacking player but reading of the situation when you are playing red ball cricket is required. We are glad he has been picked in the national team and I hope he takes this maturity into the national team and hopefully builds from thereon.”

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