The last few months have been memorable for Rahul Dravid and his India A side. After the successful tour of England, the Dravid-mentored India B side won a quadrangular one-day tournament on Wednesday (August 29), involving India A and the A sides from Australia and South Africa.
Reflecting on the progress of India A and India B sides in recent times, Dravid thanked the BCCI for organizing a steady flow of matches against the top opponents.
"It has been a good year. Obviously the tour of England was probably an added bonus which you get once in three-four years," Rahul Dravid told bcci.tv on the sidelines of the quadrangular series final in Bangalore.
"The A team programme is pretty solid. We're trying to get as much cricket as we can. For me it's really good step up from the first-class domestic cricket where a lot of these boys play in and score runs. It's a good sort of... you can bridge that gap between domestic and international cricket. The quality of cricket is better, we're playing against an Australia A team here which has got about 10 internationals, the South Africans brought a lot of international players. So pretty good opportunity for a lot of these young players who have performed in domestic cricket to test themselves against slightly better opposition.
"It also gives selectors an opportunity to see people better, at a slightly elevated level of competition. It's good for us, the more cricket we play at this level working around the domestic schedule, it's great," he explained.
Dravid said that he stays in touch with the national selectors to give them progress reports of junior players, but stressed that the focus at the A level should be more towards developing skills.
"There is certain level of communication obviously with the selectors, and obviously they communicate with the Indian team there as well. So we do work, our main aim of A team cricket is to develop good players for national team. If the national team is winning then we're all winning. That's the whole idea of this thing, so there are times when we're discussing the kind of players they're looking for not only in the short term but also in the long term. We see if we can develop those players at the A team. At this level it's sometimes more about the development,” he remarked.
"To be honest I don't get into the selection things too much but yes, the players we see here, we're happy to chat with them about some of the skills that we as coaches here at the A team level see that they maybe need to step up or work on. We're happy to give them the opportunity to work on them if we can. We've had players from the national team come back and play at this level as well which is great. Great for some of our youngsters to interact with them. It also gives them a chance to build up before an important series like the England series or Australia later this year," Dravid continued.
Last week, Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari received their maiden call-up to the senior India squad for the final two Tests against England.
Both have been among the runs for India ‘A’ in the last two months, each scoring tons against South Africa A recently. Considering their consistent showing in first-class cricket, the MSK Prasad led selection committee took a huge step forward.
Besides Vihari and Shaw, Karnataka's Mayank Agarwal has been another bright spot in the domestic circuit. Despite scoring heavily in last year’s Ranji Trophy and India A's recent tour to England, Agarwal was overlooked for selection in the senior team.
"It's something we deal with on a day to day basis. A lot of the guys who come here, let's not forget, they're all performers. You don't get to India A not having performed. They're all guys who have done well at the domestic level and aspiring to play for India. And it does happen, sometimes people just miss out. It's just the nature of the game and nature of the beast that we play in. For us, at least from my perspective, it's to keep the focus on improvement and not so much on selection,” Dravid pointed out.
"Selections will happen and some people will be happy and some disappointed. But if we keep improving our skills and keep testing them against good opposition, then hopefully when they get the opportunity they're ready for it, cash in and hopefully stay in the Indian team for longer.
"There are challenges and there at times when you need to have conversations with people, keep them going and sometimes push them. Sometimes selectors make a decision and take a call on A vs B, and it's hard to choose. There's enough arguments to say A should have been selected or B should have been selected and you can go either way on the selection. That's what happens, this is a team sport where not everything is in our control. What we try and do at this level is try and focus the boys on what is in their control and take the focus away from what is in not their control. Selection is unfortunately one of those things which is not necessarily in your control," he concluded.