This may well turn out to be a preparation that backfired. On the surface, India A’s tour of South Africa has formed the perfect starting point for a tough senior assignment later in the year. Youngsters, by the looks of it, have reveled in what are often considered to be testing conditions for most visiting teams.
Led by Cheteshwar Pujara, India ‘A’ batted their opponents (South Africa ‘A’ and Australia ‘A’) out of the Triseries, with opener Shikhar Dhawan even amassing 248 – the second-highest score ever in a one-day game – against the hosts.
But in truth, the matches played on a batting beauty in Pretoria may lead to a frank overestimation of ability in players who have been identified as the future of Indian cricket.
Pujara was the first to caution optimists against developing a false sense of security ahead of the main tour.
“I don’t think the conditions will be the same when we come back. The wickets are quite flat out here at the moment and when we come in December, the conditions will be hugely different and we are aware about it,” he said.
After a horrendous phase in 2011-12 that saw them being blanked in overseas assignments against England and Australia and also suffer a humiliating Test series loss on home soul to England, India seem to have made good ground in the last year and a half.
But a close look reveals that most recent success has come in a format they have always been comfortable playing. Although they did overwhelm a transitioning Australia in Tests earlier this year, India have of late soared chiefly on their performances in limited overs cricket.
They won the Champions Trophy in England, had their second-rung side claim the Celkon Triseries in the West Indies, and then saw their ‘B’ outfit (boasting stars such as Pujara, Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, M. Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane) clinch another title in South Africa.
But the high-scoring competition in the Rainbow nation was played on a flat winter track, a completely different kettle of fish from the kind of pitches Dhoni and his men can expect when they hit these parts later in the year to take on the No.1 Test side in the world.
The Pujara-led ‘A’ team will now play two ‘unofficial’ Tests against the Proteas, the first of which will be at Rustenburg – the bearer of a wicket that has a tendency to deteriorate alarmingly over the course of four days. How much of a preparatory help this proves to be for India’s young brigade when they’re facing Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in December, remains to be seen.