The ship has been rocked. The unsavoury saga around Virat Kohli abdicating his authority as captain across formats has now left head coach Rahul Dravid, who is credited for building an enviable talent pool as National Cricket Academy director with a huge rebuilding job.
The ‘transition talk’ has largely revolved around the form of Pujara, Rahane and Ishant. The call seems to be an obvious one: move on to the next generation. But there’s a catch.
Unlike a couple of years ago, India’s well-oiled supply line has been lying defunct thanks to the pandemic. There has been no first-class cricket in India since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly, India is the only country to have no red-ball domestic cricket in the last two years. The India ‘A’ tours didn’t take place until last month when a team went to South Africa. The finishing school at NCA too has seen little rush.
The backup for the likes of Pujara, Rahane and Ishant are ready in Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, Prasiddh Krishna, Avesh Khan and Navdeep Saini. But there’s no cover if any of these players fall prey to injuries. There’s no red-ball form to go by. “There’s no Ranji Trophy cricket. There’s no new faces coming through. What happens if some of the young boys struggle to get going or get injured? If you drop experienced players, they don’t have Ranji matches to go back and regain form. But anyway, you have to go back to them. That doesn’t really serve the purpose of building a team for the future,” say sources. “The management doesn’t want to make wholesome changes at one go. It wants experienced players around till youngsters gain experience.”
Former national selector Devang Gandhi reckons it’s important to restart the ‘A’ programme. “The first objective of the board should be to get the ‘A’ programme running. The present selectors have a difficult job. They have to judge players on white-ball cricket because that’s all that has happened in India in two years. They have to see who can do well in red-ball cricket.
What is your take on the timing of Virat Kohli’s decision to step down as Test captain?
“The U-19 World Cup thus becomes very important because you will have new faces after a long time,” Gandhi told TOI.
“I heard murmurs about dropping Rishabh Pant after the second Test. That’s not the way. Iyer, Gill and Pant should be told that they are senior players and be given more responsibility,” Gandhi added.