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India, starting again from A, B, C


CASTLED: Akshay Darekar is bowled by Devendra Bishoo during the third unoffical test. (Below) Shikhar Dhawan makes his way after being dimissed in the second test

Much was expected from India A's visit to the West Indies. However, known reputations took a beating as technical deficiencies were exposed.

Whispers are getting louder in the Indian cricket corridors that the Hyderabad Test against New Zealand in September this year may well be VVS Laxman's last. It is possible that the new Rajya Sabha MP Sachin Tendulkar, too, should go in another six months' time after the home series against Australia. If that happens, then the India A tours will assume all the more importance for Indian cricket.

There's another one in September against New Zealand A but, for starters, the West Indies tour was being considered as an examination for Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhinav Mukund, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary to stake their claims for the couple of India berths that will be vacated in the near future.

It doesn't take too much to do well in the West Indies these days, but the stars in the making couldn't make use of the platform that was there for them.

But for one matchwinning innings from Pujara, there hasn't been a performance of note and the biggest disappointment has been Rohit, whom the selectors were considering as Laxman's replacement. "The problem with Rohit is that he tends to give a chance early on and that is where he has been found out in the longer version. Let's see how long the selectors keep their patience with him, " WV Raman, former India player said.

Lalchand Rajput, the India A coach for the tour, has said that the batting has failed as a unit and they were reduced to 20-3 or 30-3 in virtually no time. Left-arm paceman Delorn Johnson, working up a decent pace, took 17 wickets, while left-arm spinner Veeraswamy Permaul, too, chipped in with crucial wickets.

"What worries me more is the fact that this Indian crop is getting out to mediocre spinners. If the pitches were not underprepared, I think it's a matter of temperament, " Raman said. The players, quite clearly, struggled to get used to the longer version, coming straight out of the IPL.

Rahane, one of the success stories of this year's IPL, tallied a meagre 62 runs off six innings, which is not going to help him in finding a place in the senior Indian side. Despite his success in domestic cricket, Rahane hasn't been able to do it on a consistent basis at the higher stage, but former India opener Aakash Chopra doesn't want to be too critical of him.

"He was taken to Australia as a reserve opener. Then he played the first two matches in the West Indies in the No 3 spot and was then again made to open in the third... I think it's important to take a call where you want to play him, " Chopra said.

Raman, though, feels Rahane still needs to tighten his batting and the selectors should think about going back to M Vijay. "If you are backing class in the case of Rohit, you should do the same for Vijay. He should be there in the next New Zealand A tour, " Raman said.

Another huge disappointment was, of course, Abhinav, the most prolific run-getter in the domestic circuit for the last couple of seasons. He has been on India tours to England and West Indies before and after sitting out the IPL with an injury, one would have expected him to make a mark in the Caribbean. But 46 runs off six innings has pushed him back by quite a few notches and Chopra feels he needs to make radical changes to his technique. "He goes too deep inside the crease against swing bowlers and that makes him a suspect against the moving ball. His front-foot doesn't move well either and he is a candidate for leg-before decisions against deliveries that come into him, " Chopra said.

Manoj Tiwary, too, could only manage a couple of halfcenturies and even though his backers suggest that he was unlucky in the second Test with the ball keeping low, the Bengal boy knows well that the selectors have only the scorebook in front of them when they go into the room to choose the final 15.

On the bowling front, however, there were a couple of surprises. Shami Ahmed, a virtual rookie in top-flight cricket, made it count with 13 wickets and Bengal coach Raman feels the boy has potential. "He has pace, but his biggest asset is his temperament. I remember he bowled flat out on a placid Eden Gardens track at some pace with a temperature of 102 and I was immediately impressed, " Raman said.

The other success was Akshay Darekar, a left-arm spinner from Maharashtra, but it is heard that his action is not beyond suspicion. Paceman Ashok Dinda didn't reap the harvest that was expected of him but Raman feels he should be given a go. "The boy has done so well in domestic cricket. Wickets don't always tell the entire story and the selectors shouldn't go by one series, at least in the case of Dinda, " he said.
It is, of course, upto Krishnamachari Srikkanth & Co to take a final call when they get down to business in a month's time.

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