Rahul Dravid was a pleased man after his India ‘A’ side beat England Lions by five wickets in London on Monday to capture the 50-over tri-series trophy.
Coached by Dravid, India ‘A’ were highly impressive throughout the tri-series with some fine displays from the likes of Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant and Deepak Chahar.
Following their form in the series, Krunal Pandya and Chahar were added to the Virat Kohli-led India squad for the T20 series against England to replace the injured Washington Sundar and Jasprit Bumrah.
“It’s been quite satisfying, some good performances. A tough game today as well, we had to fight back with the ball and the bat – so good to see them fight, good to see them compete in these conditions. Definitely some positives, as well as seeing some of the boys get into the national side as well, irrespective of the result,” the former India captain told ESPNCricinfo after his side’s win.
“Especially with the World Cup in a year’s time, it’s nice to have bench strength, for the selectors to know there are good young players if the situation does arise. It’s nice to replicate this experience leading into the World Cup, to give these boys some exposure in these conditions,” he added.
Dravid feels that the ‘A’ squad is becoming the perfect platform to develop India’s bench strength.
“There’s a good bench strength being developed and I think it gives people a lot of confidence that there are players, if the situation arises, who are in good touch and playing well. Over the last couple of years, we’ve done really well in white-ball cricket at this level, built up quite a few players. So that’s a good thing for Indian cricket,” the Bengaluru-born man stated.
The 45-year-old was on Sunday inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame along with former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting and England wicketkeeper-batswoman Claire Taylor. Dravid became only the fifth player from India to be given the recognition.
Playing for India ‘A’, Chahar snared 3-58 to restrict the Englishmen to 264-9 after one down batsman Sam Hain smashed 108 from 122 balls.
Chahar picked up the wicket of opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore before returning in the death overs to pick up the wickets of centurion Hain and tailender Tom Helm.
Chahar has been in great form in England during the tri-series. He picked up five wickets against West Indies followed by a two-wicket haul against the same opposition.
The sturdy pace bowler got selected to the India team after pace ace Jasprit Bumrah fractured his finger. While it is difficult for Chahar to get into the first-choice playing XI, he can get an opportunity later on since it’s a two-and-a-half month long tour of England.
The World Cup is less than one year away. For most teams, preparations have started with even Test matches being used as some sort of a testing ground for players who can succeed in English conditions.
For two of the biggest contenders at the showpiece event next year, the countdown has definitely begun. England are hosting the World Cup in June-July next year and are looking like they have a real shot at it this time. They better, because after the disaster that was the 2015 World Cup Down Under, England have actively shifted their focus to white-ball, and especially ODI cricket, and put aggression at the front and centre of their cricket.
Some would suggest England have risen to the No1 position in ODIs at the expense of their Test cricket. In the last three years, England won an impressive 43 out of 63 ODIs with just 17 defeats. They just thrashed world champions Australia 4-1 in their backyard and 5-0 in the home ODI series. However in Tests, England have won just 16 out of 42 matches and lost 20 games in the same period, slipping to fifth in the world. But hey, they are the No1 ODI team.
India have taken a more wholistic approach. Captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri want the Indian team to be competitive against every opponent, in every condition and all formats. The coach routinely talks about every match being a ‘home’ game for both teams since the pitch is same for both teams and there are hardly any unknowns in the modern era.
The Indians have accumulated a battery of genuine fast bowlers which can match the best in the world when it comes to experience and variety. The batting, at least the top of the order, can take any attack in the world apart while the strict fitness guidelines have meant even proven performers have failed to make the cut if found short of desired standards, leading to a period of sustained excellence from India.
In the last three years, India have won 38 out of 56 ODIs with 17 defeats. Pretty good, considering they have maintained a stupendous record in Test cricket – 23 wins and four defeats in 34 matches in three years plus the No1 ranking.
'Haven't set myself targets, want team to play good cricket' - #TeamIndia captain @imVkohli stresses on team goals rather than personal milestones before the start of the England tour pic.twitter.com/skPAJFCOp2— BCCI (@BCCI) July 2, 2018
India begin the England leg of their tour in Manchester in the first of three T20s on Tuesday. The result in those three T20s won’t matter that much to either team. the T20, ODI and five-match Test series all have one overarching aim – find the players who can withstand the pressure and deliver against the best.
India will be without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah at the start of the T20 series while Virat Kohli has hardly had any bat coming into the arduous tour. England will be sweating over the fitness of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes. That will mean opportunities for those on the fringe to make a lasting impression and even claim a permanent spot in the starting eleven.
As two of the best teams in the world prepare for battle for the next two and a half months, every move they make from now will be another step towards the World Cup.