A-team buffer for India prospects

Ravikant Singh, the city star in India's U-19 World Cup triumph in Australia in August, is likely to get more opportunities than Sreevats Goswami, who was in the junior world champion team of 2008, to catch the eyes of selectors, thanks to a move by the cricket board.

The board's decision to have Under-25 state A sides instead of Under-22 ones should give the teenaged medium-pacer, the fifth highest wicket taker in the U-19 tournament, a platform to exhibit his talent even if he fails to make it to the senior state team soon.

Batsman Sandipan Das, who was also in this year's world champion team but did not get to play a game, is also likely to benefit from the breathing space.

One of the reasons the board chose to have state A teams is to ensure that talented youngsters like Singh and Das do not face the rigours of First Class cricket prematurely.

However, India's most successful cricketer over the past two seasons, Virat Kohli, made a bigger transition ' U-19 to international cricket ' without a hitch in a short time. The Delhi batsman who had captained the junior India team to its World Cup triumph in March 2008 made his ODI debut in August the same year.

But not everyone can do a Kohli, feels Devang Gandhi, who has been named the Bengal A coach.

"There is a big leap from U-19 to First Class cricket just like there is leap from First Class to Tests. While the super-talented like Kohli can be directly drafted into the country's senior side, most are not so gifted and need to move up the ranks. The state A teams will come in handy," said Gandhi.

The coach's point is easy to illustrate. Sreevats Goswami, who was in Kohli's squad, still cannot play for Bengal regularly as Team India standby Wriddhiman Saha is the first-choice wicketkeeper.

"Too many performers at the U-19 level have faded away after playing First Class cricket. Thanks to the A teams, players over 22 will get a chance to play quality cricket even if they cannot make it to the Ranji side," said Sanjay Das, director, Videocon School of Cricket.

Maidan veterans, too, believe an under-25 team would be a better buffer between U-19 and First Class cricket than an under-22 one.

The A sides of different states will begin their matches two weeks before the Ranji Trophy, which will give players two games to perform and force their way into the senior side.

"The state A teams are meant to feed the India A team but they will also help talented young players who cannot make it to the state senior sides," said Biswarup Dey, a member of the board's specialised academy committee.

"Just like India A series helped players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Manoj Tiwari when they were out of the India side, we expect the A sides to develop bench strength for the states," added Dey, the treasurer of the Cricket Association of Bengal.