Blog by: Aayush
Barring a few minor setbacks, for the past few years, beginning with the Commonwealth Series victory in Australia to the World Cup at home and finally the Champions Trophy in England, the Indian cricket team has been dominating the sport like never before, thrashing teams all around in their own backyards and displaying a never seen before confidence.
A lot of praise has been showered on this Indian team, currently perched prettily at the top of the ODI rankings. The invincible coach, the captain who can do no wrong, the spot on selectors and the all-powerful board paints a rosy picture of Indian Cricket in any spectator’s eye.
However, not so long back this very same Indian team had just been knocked out of the first round of the World Cup, ailing with captaincy issues and had a dismal fielding record thanks to all sorts of ageing players in the field .
So the big question is – “Who wove the magic wand?”
While there is no single factor to this, but with all due respect to all those who have put their heart and soul for the glory days of Indian cricket, a considerable credit must also go to the reserve teams which comprise of the U-19 and the India A teams and which form what we know as the core bench strength of the national team.
While the U-19 team comprises of the best of the country in the age group, who further get a chance to play in more competent tournaments to prove their mettle, only the chosen and proven few get a chance to don the India A jersey. It also acts as a method of sifting the wheat from the chaff for the national selectors, for the standout performers are often promoted to the next level, which is the national team. The quintessential guy to replace the out of form or retired great has always been picked from the reserve teams, especially India A.
Look at the past records and they give a clear picture. India has won three U-19 World Cups under Mohammad Kaif, Virat Kohli and Unmukt Chand and while the first had an illustrious Indian career, the second is currently the “reliable lieutenant” in the Indian line- up.The third one too, is all set to represent the nation anytime now after some sterling performances at the national level.
Similarly for India A, all major players in the current team have had their India A performances keenly observed by the selectors and only then have made the transition to the senior team. Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Bhuveneshwar Kumar, Vinay Kumar and quite a few other, who have played for India, have had over time dished out noteworthy performances for India A and thus today are a part of the men in blue.
Even the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Sharma, Mohit Sharma and others are judged by the performances for the second string national team and then get to adorn the benches of the senior team. Further, stalwarts like Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, and Virendra Sehwag have been asked to prove their value and force their entry in the senior team solely on the basis of their India A performances.
Recently, with 242 runs in 3 matches against the West Indies A side, Yuvraj Singh, presented a strong front to the selectors to make a return to the national team and the others are looking to do the same in the upcoming matches.
The current Indian team can owe a large part of their success to their formidable bench strength. At a time when the big four of the team all retired in quick succession, many felt that the huge responsibility that would now fall on the youngsters coming in would take them down with it.
However, quite unlike so, it was seen that more and more quality players have come up and staked claim for their position in the team. How easily have they blended in and performed at the international level has left quite a few surprised.
Further, even today, whenever a regular player has been injured, a strong suitable replacement has always been available to fill their boots. Making the transition to the international level is never easy but with loads of international exposure, the Indian reserve teams always managed to churn out players loaded with potential and promise to contend for a spot in the playing 11.
This healthy competition not only keeps the playing 11 on their toes with the mantra of “you miss I hit” but also adds quality to the team and this has been one major factor in the team’s success story.
So let us spare a thought for the “never mentioned, never seen” players of the reserve teams, who behind the curtains have been working day in and day out in hope of that one opportunity to perform at the top level. They put in an equal effort, if not more, and wait patiently for their chance in the limelight.
And we have only them to thank for the silent confidence instilled in all the cricket crazy fans of this country that come what may, Indian cricket is in safe hands and the good times are here to stay.