There have been few India A matches that would have been followed as keenly by the Indian selectors and lovers of Indian cricket as the four-day clash against West Indies A at Shimoga that ended in a dull draw on Saturday. The reason for the same was simple – three veterans of Indian cricket were taking part in the match. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan, all have been critical ingredients of Indian teams in the past, but of late they have been out of favour. The four-day game was to be a test of their form and fitness. Sadly, all of them failed.
Gambhir and Sehwag had featured in the Challenger Trophy as well and but for one half-century from the latter, both had a disappointing series. In that context, the game against India A was exceedingly important for them if they wanted to impress the selectors. It wasn’t to be the case though as both the former India openers failed to stay out in the middle for a decent amount of time, and were sent back cheaply. Gambhir have Sehwag have been given a fair amount of chances to prove their worth in recent times, but have failed to prosper.
In contrast, left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan hasn’t got many chances to impress ever since being sidelined. He did head to train in France along with Yuvraj Singh in an endeavour to get himself back in shape. One game is not enough to judge how much Khan has improved since his last stint in Test cricket. However, from what was on display in the four-day game, the signs weren’t very encouraging. Khan managed only two wickets in the match after having sent down 33 overs in the two innings combined.
Another low profile opportunity was presented to Mohammad Kaif, who was at one point of time an indispensable part of the Indian team. It is difficult to fathom how far behind he has fallen in the race for a comeback. Kaif had been unlucky with injury and unfair selection during his peak, and he is clearly not the same force with the bat he once used to be. Kaif laboured hard in the match for his 26, but it wasn’t a performance that would inspire much confidence. In recent times, Kaif hasn’t even found a spot in a starting XI in an IPL squad, which says something about his clambers.
The positives for India A from the drawn game were few and far in between. Left- arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt was the most impressive of all players from the hosts’ side, claiming seven wickets in the first innings and two in the second. With the bat, only three batsmen made their presence felt. Abhishek Nayar continued his good run in domestic cricket with another fluent knock even as opener VA Jagadeesh and wicket-keeper Umesh Kaul came up with hard-fought fifties. All other plus points were gained by the West Indian camp.
--By A Cricket Analyst