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India was already close to winning when Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selection for Australia, and Prasad were invited for a luncheon chat in a dining room at the MCG.
Hohns served as the gathering’s host. He asked the visiting selector how India was able to consistently produce bowlers of such high calibre.
Greg Chappell was present, and Prasad claimed that while he was the coach of India, he gave them a hint.
According to Prasad, Chappell insisted on having a pool of 10 to 15 fast bowlers who would be managed and watched over centrally.
They included Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, and Sreesanth.
They did India proud, but not for very long.
Prasad informed the crowd that there were now procedures in place to preserve the fitness and ferocity of bowlers.
Additionally, there were more on the way.
India was dominating Australia both on and off the field.
As they had already completed the work of it, on it.
Two years later, on India’s subsequent journey to Melbourne, this claim of depth would be put to the test.
The 2020–21 season didn’t begin with Ishant Sharma.
After India was bowled out for 36 in the first Test, Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami were out.
India tied the series in Melbourne using their fifth and sixth-choice fast bowlers.
Umesh Yadav, Rohit Sharma, and Ravindra Jadeja all missed two tests.
Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin were playing one another.
Only two members of the team management’s 1st XI from the first Test were still present at the beginning of the last Test.
During the series, five players made their debuts.
The last test was open to anyone who could stand up straight.
The replacements performed nearly as well as the incumbents considering the short notice.
They eventually won the series thanks to some luck, the same kind that had previously forsaken India, most notably in England in 2018. This was the crowning victory of their depth and bench strength.
World-beating bench Strength
Indian Cricket World-beating bench
India not only produces a large number of cricketers of the highest calibre on the world stage, but they also arrive fully prepared.
Almost no debutant has the appearance of being out of place.
Almost none of them are impulsive decisions or bets.
The player remains unaffected, even when it could appear to be one—Mayank Agarwal in Melbourne in 2018 comes to mind.
India gave out so many debuts on a foreign tour the last time was in 1996, when as many as six players won caps against England.
Rahul Dravid and Paras Mhambrey, two of those debutants, are now in charge of making sure a player making his India debut is prepared for that calibre of competition.
Internationally, Dravid had a brilliant career.
After that 1996 tour, Mhambrey didn’t participate in another Test; his final match started on the day he turned 24.
Both players thought playing international cricket was a significant step up.
Dravid is now the National Cricket Academy’s director, while Mhambrey is the bowling coach there.
The selection committee of Prasad, another Indian cricketer who, like many others in that era, was pushed into the deep end, served as their partners in crime until recently.
Prasad played in six Tests before retiring; the last one, at age 24, took place during India’s disastrous tour of Australia in 1999–2000.
Aashish Kapoor, who played his final four Tests at the age of 25, served as the head of the junior selection committee when India began to assemble their now-impressive talent acquisition structure.
It is easy to imagine it as four guys working to ensure that the issues they faced are not repeated by the following generation.
To a certain extent, yes, but the success is mostly attributable to the strong system India constructed, a board prepared to invest heavily in that system, and the vastly increased level of knowledge among all coaches, trainers, and physiotherapists in the nation.
Meanwhile according to espncricinfo report 38 teams compete in domestic Under-19 and U-16 cricket as a result of the Lodha Committee’s recommendations to reform Indian cricket being fully implemented.
These games are not shown on television, and no media outlets report on them.
Since it is tough to select an India squad from these matches, the junior selection committee selects 150 players from these 38 teams after consulting with Dravid’s staff at the NCA.
The five selectors on that committee are limited in their ability to travel, thus they must rely heavily on player numbers as well as an unofficial scouting apparatus that includes umpires, scorers, match officials, and others.
To prevent politically appointed authorities from having an unfair influence on selection, the zonal system of choosing players was eliminated.
World beating bench Strength Zonal Cricket Academy
Each group of these 150 players is then sent to a month-long camp at a Zonal Cricket Academy after being split into six groups of 25 players (ZCA).
The ZCA’s physical therapists and trainers are on par with those working internationally.
The NCA’s coaches—Mhambrey, Narendra Hirwani, Abhay Sharma, and occasionally Dravid—travel to these camps in shifts so that they can collectively observe as many young players as they can.
Experienced former athletes who have received formal coaching training, such Shitanshu Kotak, Ajay Ratra, Ramesh Powar, Gursharan Singh, and Bhaskar Pillai, are in charge of the camps themselves.
The U-19 World Cup is not the main goal of this selection process.
With players aged 17 to 18, you don’t cast your net so narrowly, but if it were your primary goal, that list of 150 players could rapidly be reduced to 15 or 20.
Not everyone develops quickly; you don’t want to pass someone up only to watch his performances soar six months later.
This strategy has also stopped the system from promoting cricketers who are older than they should be, even if they are just stronger and faster than 18-year-olds.
Starting roughly 18 months before the World Cup, the list is whittled down to the final 15 only after extensive rotation and matches, both intra-camp and international, have taken place.
Each player is allowed an adequate number of matches to make his case before the ultimate selection is made.
That is Dravid’s way of thinking.
He won’t feel unfairly treated if he scores 400 and someone scoring 425 or 375 is chosen if you offer everyone enough opportunities to score 800 runs and stand out.
The players have been exposed to NCA training, coaching, fitness programme, and plenty of matches throughout this time, providing the coaches with a wealth of data.
One of the NCA’s trainers, Anand Date, thought the players were losing focus after leaving the camps on several issues.
Dravid and Mhambrey had little choice but to instruct them to adhere to the stated programmes.
As a result, Date collaborated on an app with U-19 analyst Devraj Raut.
GPS devices are being used to track the fitness of India’s 30 centrally contracted cricketers, but there aren’t yet enough of them to distribute to the U-19 cricketers as well.
They utilise the gadgets while they are at the NCA, but when they are gone, they are required to submit everything via an app, including their dietary habits, exercise regimen, number of balls bowled, and distance travelled.
The software notifies the trainers of any spikes or drops at the conclusion of each week.
The player is then contacted by one of the coaches to find out the cause of the abnormalities.
The cause is frequently a state team, club team, or a game that will determine the player’s selection for his state.
Players frequently sustain injuries in a week or two that follow such an uptick.
With all the diplomacy it can muster, the NCA must intervene to stop these injuries.
The current tendency in Indian cricket has been that bowlers mature later while hitters who perform well at the U-19 level advance to international competition.
Before them, R Ashwin, Shami, Siraj, and Jasprit Bumrah were not U-19 stars.
It’s not impossible that a young bowler with potential gets knocked out before they can perform to their full potential.
Here, the A team structure is essential.
India A played 24 unofficial Test matches between the beginning of 2017 and the close of 2019, just before the epidemic broke out.
That number exceeds the actual Tests that Bangladesh, Pakistan, or New Zealand played over that time.
There were just 14 games for the other A teams.
Before Dravid took charge of the development teams, Indian cricket’s A-team lacked any consistency or organisation.
Prior to that, choosing players for the A-tour occasionally involved choosing players to make up for them missing out elsewhere.
There weren’t many episodes of the series themselves.
Now, the goal is to hold at least four of these series per year, especially in locations where India will be travelling in the near future.
Future-focused decisions are made accordingly, but elder athletes’ days may still be ahead of them.
An experienced player can move directly from Ranji to international cricket if there is a stop-gap vacancy at the senior level, although A-team cricket is focused on producing long-term replacements.
At its finest, this can offer a shadow tour to support the national team, as it did in 2018, when Rishabh Pant was asked to fill in for Wriddhiman Saha and was hitting first-class runs in England.
The A squad receives the same resources as the senior team, including the same degree of training, physiotherapy care, and analysis.
They attempt to play a similar style of cricket.
When India’s senior team stopped playing finger spinners, the A team also began using wrist spinners.
Axar Patel began playing for India A if Ravindra Jadeja returned to the national team.
India A attempted to offer Vijay Shankar as many games as they could, even if they continued to play Hardik Pandya at the senior level.
The goal is to have a suitable replacement on hand in case the senior team needs one.
The team analysts use their relationships with opponent analysts to organise clips so they can sit down with the players and imitate the sort and amount of planning that goes on at the international level even though there isn’t much player footage available at this level of the game.
The parties are fine with the reciprocal arrangement because the goal is to experience what it’s like to play opponents who have dissected your strategy and are hunting for any weaknesses.
Sometimes, the opposition the A side faces is very similar to what the senior Indian players deal with.
Siraj bowled at six batters who went on to play Test cricket for Australia shortly after taking 11 wickets against Australia A in September 2018.
The selectors used expanded squads when India played at home at times when there was no A cricket action.
The guys Prasad uses as examples include Panchal and Siraj, who were in the India dressing room even though they weren’t going to participate in a series.
He thinks it also kept the incumbents alert.
He believed it was occasionally important to transmit that message.
An A-team match incurs much of the same expenses as a Test match.
There is no comparable financial return, unlike for a Test.
However, the BCCI hasn’t shied away from spending a lot of money on A-team cricket. In one instance, they even gave a hosting board a helping hand to ensure that a trip happened.
It’s possible that not all of the games in that 2018 series vs Australia A were played.
The games scheduled to be played at Visakhapatnam were in danger of being cancelled due to a cyclone on India’s east coast.
The BCCI quickly relocated the games, along with both teams, to Bangalore.
Chappell, who was then playing for the Australia A squad, was astounded by the amount of preparation made for an A series.
It won’t surprise anyone if another Indian squad surpasses the accomplishments of the current one in five years.
There might, however, be a bump up ahead.
There hasn’t been a camp at the NCA or an A tour since the epidemic broke out in the first quarter of 2020.
Those things aren’t the BCCI’s top concern, which is maybe understandable given how challenging it is to meet even the bottom lines.
If the work done on Siraj in 2018 had an influence in 2020, it’s also possible that we might have witnessed the true effects of no developmental programmes in two or three years.