With the Indian team doing a great job in the 50-overs format, the focus now shifts to the acid test, the tour of South Africa in November.
The India A team is set to tour South Africa to play one-day matches and four-day games.
This is an important tour as the attitude and performance during this series will give an indication on the future prospects of Indian Test cricket in trying conditions. The Cheteshwar Pujara-led team has nine players who are currently part of the team touring Zimbabwe; the rest have been selected for their performances in domestic cricket, not just Twenty20 and one-day matches but Ranji Trophy too.
By now it looks obvious that by sidelining Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh, the selectors have sent a strong message to those who take their places for granted.
The A tour to South Africa is crucial for Jammu and Kashmir off-spinner Parveez Rasool. If he succeeds, it will be a long struggle for Harbhajan to make it back as the country’s top off-spinner. The title currently rests with Ravichandran Ashwin.
With Ishant Sharma, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav being rested, the fourth seamer’s spot will be a tussle between Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammad Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Siddharth Kaul and Zaheer Khan, if he gets back to peak fitness.
For Murali Vijay, the A team tour will be a chance to prove that he is not a flat wicket bully. He had a dismal tour of the West Indies in 2011, scoring a measly 72 runs at an average of 12 in three Tests.
The South Africa wickets will also be a real test for Suresh Raina who was fortunate to have donned the India Test cap before Pujara. The left- hander has his limitations when it comes to facing short-pitched stuff.
The selectors have, once more, given a golden opportunity to Mumbai lads Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane who have not converted their potential into solid performances.
The team A tour will be watched very closely by those who matter in Indian cricket.
The colts may not face chin music served by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotobe but they will certainly be tested by the second string of South African as well as Australian bowlers who have been bred on wickets that are fast and bouncy.
For Indian cricket, the real ‘Test’ will begin with a small preview next month.
(The writer is a former Cricket Club of India captain and Bombay University cricketer)