Shortly after a jam-packed home season, Team India landed in South Africa on December 29. The world No. 1 Test side were slated to play a two-day warm-up match against South Africa before the first Test on January 5. However, the Indian team management opted out of the practice match and rather conducted their own training sessions.
As soon as India conceded the first two Tests and the series, blame game started and head coach Ravi Shastri admitted that another 10-15 days of preparation in the rainbow nation could have been ideal for the visitors.
In order to avoid such slip-ups in the forthcoming tour of England, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have put some plan in place.
On Saturday (March 24), the Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai confirmed that Test specialists such as Murali Vijay and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will land in England in June as a part of Rahul Dravid-coached India A side that will be playing a number of first-class games against county as well as England Lions (A) side.
India’s tour of England will kick off from July 3 where they will play three T20Is and as many ODIs before featuring in a five-match Test series from August 1.
"There will be a few seniors -- among Test specialists, who will leave for UK in early June along with Rahul's India A team. I can't say how many -- anything between two to four senior team players will be there from start of A tour. A few will play the Afghanistan Test match and then leave for England. But yes, atleast 7 to 8 players, who are all Test team specialists will have to be in England in June," Rai quoted as saying by PTI.
"It is important to play red ball cricket in England in June as the entire July will be the limited overs series (three ODIs and 3 T20 Internationals). So in June, they play red ball cricket, switch to white ball in July and then the Test series starts in August," he added.
The five-match Test series against England is deemed as the biggest challenge for Virat Kohli and company this year. No wonder, Kohli himself has opted to play county cricket for Surrey in the month of June. Moreover, India’s leading Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and speedster Ishant Sharma will be playing for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively from the start of the county season.
Indian cricketers’ county stint in June in addition to the earlier departure of some of its Test specialists to England might see the BCCI fielding a second string side for Afghanistan’s historic maiden Test match against India in Bengaluru from June 14. However, Rai assured that a very good side will take on Afghanistan in the one-off Test.
"Everyone can be rest assured that we are not taking Afghanistan Test lightly. Yes, Virat won't be available for the Test match but either among Ajinkya or Rohit will lead the side in Virat's absence," Rai said.
The CoA chief is also pleased with the fact that the players understood the significance of early preparation for a tough tour like England.
"Virat himself was first to come to me and say that he wanted to play county cricket. And talking to the players, we understood how badly they want to do well in England. Also this Afghanistan Test will also give us a chance to create a three-tier national team -- all of same standard and ability. A few younger players will get a chance to play Test cricket," Rai concluded.