The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done a fine job by scheduling aseries of matches for India A. It has given selectors a fine opportunity to nurture youngsters and give them good exposure. Following India’s Under-19 World Cup win last year, selectors have taken a keen interest in a few key performers of the tournament and tried them out in the A team. Aayush Puthran looks back at the progress of two of India’s Under-19 World Cup players over the last one year.
Just as India was celebrating its Under-19 World Cup triumph in Australia last year, it was the flair of skipper Unmukt Chand that had won hearts after he scored a match-winning century in the final. Despite having an ordinary tournament, Chand’s big-match temperament had caught the attention of the media and the selectors alike. The latter have since shown keen interest in the young player and tried to give him maximum quality exposure despite poor and inconsistent form.
During the same tournament, a young cricketer from Tamil Nadu was winning matches single-handedly for his team with handy contributions with his all round performance. Without a doubt, he was India’s best player in the tournament. However, the spotlight has evaded him since and while he deserved to be given equal opportunities as Chand, Baba Aparajith is still managing to just about squeeze into a few chances of representing India A.
It leads to a curious case when one looks at the kind of opportunities both the young cricketers have got following the World Cup victory. There is no denying the fact that Chand has shown the spark and deserves his chances despite the fact that he hasn’t justified the opportunities given to him as yet while playing for Delhi in Ranji Trophy, his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise in the cash-rich tournament or in India A colours. It may be a little premature to say, but India doesn’t need another case like Rohit Sharma so quickly. So it is best that he is tested against less challenging teams playing for the A team.
However, the same holds true for Aparajith as well. He may be have been unfortunate to not get as many chances as his former teammate has got — whether it is in IPL, Ranji Trophy or for India A. Nonetheless, given the fact that he has performed better than Chand in the limited opportunities that he has got, he ought to be taken more seriously, if not more. He may not have the charisma of Chand, but Aparajith does a handy job with his multiple skills. In 14 List A matches, he has scored at an average of 37.91 and picked up 15 wickets at 24.33 runs each.
If nurtured well, Aparajith could also help the Indian senior team add to their bank of genuine all-rounders. His recent form also bodes well for the fact that this is an ideal time for selectors to nurture him. But for that, he needs to be given ample opportunities of playing quality cricket like Chand and his progress has to be closely monitored.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)