While on one end, Indian cricket’s never-ending tales of coaching spats, dressing room rifts and governing body’s battles with other entities make things look rather unpleasant and cryptic at times, the other end (just like the opposite end for a bowler), with talent in abundance, desire sky high and rewards for blooming on the big stage, looks bright and promising.
On Thursday, the squad for India A’s tour of South Africa was named. The tour consists of a one-day tri-series which will see the Manish Pandey-led team play against South Africa A and Australia A, as well as two four-day games, in Benoni and Potchefstroom, where the side will be captained by Karun Nair, starting next end of July.
Among the 16-member one-day squad named though, there were two players, who got their maiden call-ups to the India A side; Medium pacer Basil Thampi, and all-rounder Krunal Pandya. Sounds good, doesn’t it? For a second you think, “Oh, I’ve heard these names before, I know why they’ve been selected.” And your mind and heart say, “IPL”, at the same time.
Basil Thampi, the 23-year-old young speedster from Kerala, a product of the MRF Pace Foundation, having improved under the watchful eyes of Glenn McGrath, had a base price of INR 10 Lakh, went for INR 85 Lakh to the Gujarat Lions, bowled at 140-plus through the Indian Premier League (IPL). But that wasn’t why everyone would remember him. His toe-crushing yorkers were what made him stand out. He played in 12 games, got 11 wickets and his best figures were 3 for 29 against the Mumbai Indians. Thampi’s skill, hard work, temperament and seize-the-big-stage hunger earned him the Emerging Player of IPL 10 too.
When asked about how he felt after being named in the India A squad, Thampi was speechless. Who wouldn’t be. “It is a dream come true for me and I am short of words to express how happy I have been since morning,” he said. When asked if he was expecting a call-up, Thampi replied saying, “Actually not! To be very honest, I am somebody who sets short goals for myself and then I try and work towards it. For instance, when I started playing cricket, I had set a goal to play in the Ranji Trophy and then I worked towards achieving it. Similarly, I played for IPL and India ‘A’ was the next goal that I had set for myself,” as quoted by bcci.tv.
Where he will be five or ten years down the line might be tough to speculate upon, but fast bowlers like Thampi are always in-demand in the modern game. So more of the same, should be Thampi’s way to go. Keep leaving an impression.
Krunal Pandya doesn’t like being in his brother’s shadow. No brother does. He has had his own IPL journey, with the Mumbai Indians, and made a name for himself. This season he again stood to be a vital element in MI’s squad; sometimes doing rescue efforts and sometimes filling up the role Harbhajan did in the side. At the end of IPL 10, he had 243 runs, scored them at an average of 34.71, a strike rate of 135.75. With the ball he scalped 10 wickets, gave less than 7 runs per over.
When the India A squad for the tour to South Africa was named, it was way past midnight in Antigua, where his brother Hardik was staying with Team India. Hardik called him up, and congratulated him for what was another step towards success for the elder one. “We speak daily, but today he stayed up to congratulate me. It is our collective to dream to play for India together. Getting selected for the India A team is great news and everyone in our family is delighted.”
Krunal, simply is a limited-overs specialist and that he has proved time and again. “I relish pressure situations. The satisfaction you get from helping your team out of trouble is unmatched,” he says. Could he be a replacement to Yuvraj or maybe Jadeja in the future, no one knows. In fact, that shouldn’t even be a relevant question. Yes he’s an attacking, flamboyant left-hander and has a bowling style similar to Jadeja, also an athletic fielder, but the question will always be of what he brings to the table. And for now, he will have to show consistency, hunger and more hunger.
But nevertheless, while Thampi and Krunal, might or might not get in the Playing XI for India A in the upcoming tri-series (that would depend on the team combination India A goes with), at least from what it looks like, the process being followed looks good; players being rewarded for notable displays. Also, they’ll be watched closely by Rahul Dravid, whose term as India A coach has been extended. More tougher the competition, more the experience they’ll gain. And who knows, maybe one day soon, both will be representing India at the international stage. Sweet are fruits of hard work.
Amidst everything that is happening in Indian cricket, the reassurance that our talent is being taken care of, is the most satisfying part of it all. The supply line can never be impurity-free but the way things stand, is not bad at all.