India moved quickly to put in place a new coaching staff, sidelining Duncan Fletcher and bringing Ravi Shastri to oversee the team for the ODI matches. One of the shortcomings pointed out about Fletcher was that he never saw any domestic matches such as Ranji Trophy or Duleep Trophy and therefore had no idea of the potential of the incoming players. BCCI has tried to rectify this by appointing Assistant coaches who have worked with almost all the players in the team and are best positioned to correct small deficiencies in technique that may creep in. It is widely rumored that Rahul Dravid may soon be the Coach of the team and this in my view is an excellent choice.
Dravid is a fierce competitor and brings gravitas to the name Coach since he excelled at overseas tours and that is where India needs strong stewardship. If he goes on to become the Coach of the team, I think that bodes well for Indian cricket. Test cricket is the truest examination of the player's caliber (and hence the name Test!). Since the calendar is now crowded with several formats, it is important to identify talent at an early stage and encourage it. Making Test caliber players to go for India 'A' tours is a start but some countries do not have talent to waste (Greg Chappell's words, not mine!) and therefore the 'A' team may not be challenged as much as the International team. But it is a good start. In order to make it to the 'A' team, the following suggestions will help:
- Selection has to be based on how the players perform domestically. No one should take their place for granted.
- Expect to be rotated even after a stellar peformance. India did this on their recent 'A' tour of Australia and I think it is an excellent move. It helps Pace bowlers stay hungry and fresh, among other things.
- The playing XI will be selected first and then the captain from among them. No exceptions. XI will be selected by Coach and a set of 3 senior players in the team, designated before the start of the tour.
- Excellence at the 'A' level should be rewarded by inclusion into the Test team.
- India can usher in the 'A' players into Test teams that play minnows such as BanglaDesh, Zimbabwe etc. This will allow them time to get used to international level quality.