India A lost the unofficial One-Day International (ODI) series against West Indies A, despite having the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Vinay Kumar and Robin Uthappa in their ranks. Sudatta Mukherjee, however, looks at the positives for India.
Lokesh Rahul (21), Unmukt Chand (20), Mandeep Singh (21), Manprit Juneja (23), Kedar Jadhav (28), Baba Aparajith (19) and Bhargav Bhatt (23). These are the young players who caught the eye with their performances during India A’s series against the West Indies A.
Rahul’s knock of 93 not out was instrumental in India Under-23 winning the Asian Cricket Council’s Emerging Teams Cup Tournament a few months back. The Under-19 World Cup-winning captain Chand was generous in his praise of Rahul when he said: “Rahul is a class player with a solid technique — much like Rahul Dravid.”
Playing the first unofficial four-day match against West Indies A, Rahul scored 46 in the first innings. Along with Jiwanjot Singh, he was involved in a 45-run partnership for the opening wicket and 60 runs for the third wicket with Manprit Juneja.
Rahul is a partnership builder. In the ACC Emerging Tournament’s group match against Nepal, Rahul and Chand shared a 118-run partnership for the first wicket. After Chand’s dismissal, Rahul and Juneja shared a 42-run partnership for second wicket. Even in the final against Pakistan, Rahul and Juneja shared an unbeaten 132-run partnership for the second wicket, which was the highest in the match.
Much has been written about Chand’s future as a promising leader. The calm and composed manner in which he led the Under-19 team to win the World Cup in 2012 has been widely applauded and acknowledged. He has been hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket. His ability to perform under pressure is most laudable. The way he powered Delhi to the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy final with a timely hundred was quite commendable. After being defeated by India Blue in the first match, Delhi needed to win against India Red. Chand built solid partnerships with Milind Kumar, Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir. He has often been compared with Kohli, his Delhi teammate. Both have been captains of Under-19 World Cup-winning teams and both are aggressive at the crease.
A finger injury ruled Mandeep out of the NKP Salve Challenger tournament, but the dashing right-hander remains among the promising young hopefuls in the country. No one can forget his match-winning 151 in the 2009 Under-19 tour of Australia. He followed that by scoring unbeaten 51 against Afghanistan in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup. He smashed four fours and three sixes and won the man of the match award. Even in the recent series against New Zealand, representing the India A team, he scored 59 in one of the matches. In the first unofficial ODI against West Indies A, despite senior players making plenty of runs, Mandeep emerged a hero with an innings of 67. He was also involved in a 100-run partnership with Yuvraj for the third wicket. Clearly, one for the future.
The 23-year-old Manprit’s run of scores in the last six matches reads: 84, 70, 193, 43, 51* and 76. In the first unofficial four-day Test played between India A and West Indies A, Manprit was the star performer with the bat, scoring 84 runs from 151 balls. He followed that up with 70 from 193 balls in the second innings. He then missed his double century by seven runs against New Zealand A in the second unofficial Test. In the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season, Manprit scored three centuries and three fifties. He scored a total of 796 runs from eight matches at an average of 66.33.
Kedar Jadhav scored 42 in the one-off T20 match against West Indies A and 49 for India Red against the Blue team in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy. Jadhav came to the limelight with his fifty for Delhi Daredevils on his Indian Premier League (IPL) debut. His First-Class batting average is around 42.14 and 51.11 in List A, with a strike-rate of 106.36. He was also a star in India A’s series against New Zealand A. He scored 57 and along with teammate Ashok Menaria helped India whitewash New Zealand A.
Baba Aparajith can bat and bowl and performs when it matters. He was one of the stars from India Under-19 World Cup-winning team. His 123 off 128 balls helped Tamil Nadu lift the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup in September. Opening the batting for India A against West Indies A in the third unofficial ODI, Aparajith scored 78. However, his innings wasn’t well supported by his teammates. Had India not lost his wicket, the Yuvraj-led team would have won the ODI and the series.
On Wednesday, West Indies A dominated the first day of the second unofficial four-day Test. Zaheer Khan failed to make an impact as he picked only one wicket on Day One. However, Bhargav Bhatt’s three wickets helped India A keep West Indies under control. A day later, he took four more wickets to finish the innings with seven for 113. The 23-year-old bowler from Baroda impressed everyone when he picked up 47 wickets in nine matches in his debut season, leading the Ranji Trophy wicket-takers and guiding Baroda to the final.
While the performances of some of the senior players trying to get back into the Indian team continues to disappoint, the encouraging displays of the youngsters provides much hope for the future of Indian cricket.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)