As India ‘A’ toil hard against their West Indian counterparts in the Caribbean, cricketers who have been there during their international careers or as India ‘A’ players, reckon Cheteshwar Pujara & Co must make most of the opportunity.
Mohammad Kaif, who first toured the West Indies in 2002 and then in 2006, said the experience of ‘A’ tours helps in no small measure. “If you score runs or take wickets anywhere, it helps build your confidence. But doing it in foreign conditions gives you that edge over others. You are also watched by many, so it motivates you to do even better,” Kaif said.
Former India ‘A’ player Abhijit Kale, who toured the West Indies for the 2002-03 Carib Beer Cup, said the experience would help cricketers become mentally tougher. “The fact that these guys are already experienced wouldn’t make much of a difference skill-wise. But doing well in foreign conditions helps you become mentally tougher. I am sure their confidence will be lifted if they do well,” said Kale.
Former India left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni, who visited West Indies for a few exhibition games in 2010, seconded Kale’s views. While Kaif felt an ‘A’ tour is not the only way to get selected into the Indian team nowadays, former India opener Aakash Chopra felt it is a stepping stone. “I am all for more India ‘A’ tours. They provide a great learning experience,” he said.
Talking about the benefits of touring West Indies, Chopra, who toured the Caribbean islands alongwith Kale for Carib Beer Cup, said: “The wickets are definitely not the same as compared to what we have seen. They are a lot slower now, almost like sub-continental tracks. But still, it would be a good experience against different opposition. Their consistency will be tested.”
Chance to grab No 3 spot
Chopra felt Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara have a good chance to make the India No 3 spot, left open by the retirement of Rahul Dravid. “It will be important how these guys perform. They all have talent and have a huge opportunity to get their Test spot by doing well in the West Indies,” he said.
Another advantage of tours is the opportunity to meet former greats. Kaif was lucky to interact with West Indian legends Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Joel Garner. “We have grown up seeing them. So, it was a great experience to meet them and enhance our knowledge of the game,” said Kaif.
Chopra was fortunate to meet Greenidge’s opening partner Desmond Haynes. “You don’t get much time, but it was good to peep into his mind. And he being an opener, helped me,” he said.
Kaif insisted that players should think beyond India ‘A’. “These cricketers (on the India ‘A’ tour) should aim to play at the top level for 10-15 years,” he concluded.