The Baoard of Control for Cricket (BCCI) has been giving opportunities to youngsters for second stringed tours © Getty Images
The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) has been giving opportunities to youngsters for second stringed tours like Zimbabwe © Getty Images

Without doubt, cricket is a ‘religion’ in our country. Since the Indian cricket team won the 1983 World Cup, the sport picked up in various parts of the country. Every individual looks to polish his/her skills as a cricketer to reach the national level.  For passionate cricketers, the Indian cap is the sole purpose of their life. Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) has been contributing left, right and centre for development of the game since time immemorial. They have made a conscious effort to test the select players on their performance, fitness and form and tried to overlook the ‘reputation’ of established players. Of late, BCCI have been testing the team’s bench strength almost immediately after hectic Indian Premier League (IPL) seasons. Before the end of the ongoing IPL 2016, BCCI has announced the team for India’s tour of Zimbabwe. New players have made it to the squad along with regular skipper, MS Dhoni. BCCI deserves credit for their thinking, but let us take an overview of this decision: ALSO READ: Sanjay Bangar named India coach for Zimbabwe tour

India have always had a stressful season before the IPL, every year. After the commencement of the cash-rich tournament, players get even more tired as the cricketing extravaganza stretches for around 60 days. Mainly since 2014, BCCI have made effort to rest their main crop of players after an IPL season ends and test their bench strength in the international level. If established players need time off the field to rest their bodies, the young and uncapped are raring to go. Players selected for such second-string tours usually have impressive IPL seasons backed by good domestic performances (one of the lesser-noticed aspects of IPL). It has become a launchpad for inexperienced players to get into the groove and play among and against international players. BCCI tries to make use of their rich IPL experience and make it count for their national team. ALSO READ: Ravi Shastri unlikely to get renewal as Team India Director

On India’s tour of Bangladesh in 2014, selectors sent a relatively inexperienced team to face a depleted host side. Suresh Raina was appointed skipper, with Stuart Binny and Ajinkya Rahane performing in the subcontinent. The following year, India’s seniors were rested following they had a strenuous tour of Australia including ICC World Cup 2015. Unfortunately, they had a torrid time in Bangladesh where they lost their maiden bilateral series to hosts 1-2. The next tour in Indian cricket’s schedule was, once again, Zimbabwe. The selectors thought of giving their main players some time off the field and sent an ‘India A’ team as their national team.

Ajinkya Rahane was given a chance to lead the side this time, and the visitors won the ODI series 3-0 but tied the T20 series 1-1. This tour also had newcomers and players making a comeback after a long time to cement their place in the team. Murali Vijay, Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu and Bhuvneshwar Kumar got a chance to make a comeback into the regular team and less exposed players like Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav made a mark in the tour. The wise thinking of BCCI of experimenting with relatively new and inexperienced players in such tours is a masterstroke. But there is a flipside to this strategy as well.

The players selected for these tours are chosen on basis of IPL and domestic cricket performances, but there is no doubt that IPL, being a larger platform for its viewership and overall reception gets more weightage. However, 20-over matches are often not enough to judge talent of a player. On the other hand, gaining the Indian cap has become slightly easier all of a sudden. It seems as if BCCI are distributing the prestigious Indian caps to youngsters. No doubt the youngsters who have been included in the squad for Zimbabwe are deserving (though some deserving players missed out), but had the main team not opted to sit out, these players would have had to wait for long to play for India.

In the famous win in Adelaide in India’s tour to Australia in 2003-04 series, Rahul Dravid called for the blue Team India cap just before hitting the winning shot and kissed it in delight to show his respect, passion and commitment towards the game. Similarly, the Baggy Green of Australian cricket team holds enormous value for the cricket. In no way, BCCI are out to hamper the image of Indian cricket team’s cap but the way of earning caps for uncapped players has become relatively easy.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)