CHENNAI: In a welcome move, India A will be touring Australia for the first time in December for three one-dayers and three T20s. While the recently-concluded Women’s T20 Challenge was seen as a stepping stone to nurture young talent, this tour is a sign of things to come for the second string.
Unlike their compatriots, the women barely have A tours. Even when India A play a match or two at home, they are not match ready because it’s so few and far inbetween. This was evident when they lost 1-2 to Australia A in the three one-dayers at home last October.
This is one of the reasons why India captain Mithali Raj has been emphasising on the need to improve the country’s bench strength since finishing runners-up in the 50-over World Cup in 2017.
“To have a India A women team tour abroad is a welcome step,” said former India all-rounder Mamatha Maben. “It will be very helpful. It’s a morale booster and was much needed for the second string. If India A play regularly, the bench will become stronger. It’s a path-breaking step for women’s cricket.”
Even in the last T20I series against England which India lost 0-3 at home in March, stand-in skipper Smriti Mandhana said that domestic players who come into the national set-up lack competitiveness. Going ahead, with the next World T20 set to commence from February 20, 2020 in Australia, time is ripe for India to test their bench strength.
“In case of the men’s side, the A side will be playing home and away games simultaneously with the seniors. For instance, when a vacancy arose at the top, someone like Mayank Agarwal was brought into the fold (in the third Test against Australia last year). In that regard, it is going to help a lot. When the fringe is playing well and (once) they come into the national side, they might find the path to break into national side that bit easier. They won’t be raw when they are exposed to that level.”
For a long time, there have been arguments on India’s lack of depth. But in the three-team Women’s T20 Challenge, apart from you Harmanpreets and Smritis, players such as Shafali Verma, Sushree Dibyadarshini and Komal Zanzad showed glimpses of succeeding at the highest level. Maben, who was the coach of Velocity, believes that with exposure, these players can achieve consistency.
“All uncapped players did well in our team, which was heartening to see. We saw what Shafali, Sushree and Komal are capable of. If we give enough opportunities to our bench, they will also come to the fore. Exposure will do a world of good to them.”