India ‘A’ selection is good opportunity for Upendra Yadav, Kumar Kushagra: Ajay Ratra

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) With KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel selected in the Test squad for the first two games against England at Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, Kumar Kushagra and Upendra Yadav were recently included in the India ‘A’ team for the second and third four-day games against England Lions in Ahmedabad.

While Upendra was a member of India ‘A’ team on their tour of South Africa in 2021, Kushagra has been handed a maiden call-up to the squad. Former India wicketkeeper-batter Ajay Ratra believes the duo are on the radar of the selection committee, resulting in their selection for India ‘A’ team.

“India ‘A’ is your second-best Test team and with them being selected for those games, it means that the selectors and team management are keeping an eye on those two, based on their domestic performances for a long time. There’s a lot of cricket happening and it’s great that those two wicketkeepers are getting a chance to play in this format,” he said in an exclusive conversation with IANS.

With Rishabh Pant still recovering from injuries sustained in a horrific car accident in December 2022, India has fielded three different wicketkeepers in Test cricket since February 2023 – Bharat, Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul.

Bharat had been in the ‘A’ team set-up for a long time before graduating to the Test level, while Rahul has been the primary wicketkeeper in ODIs and even donned the gloves for the Test tour of South Africa.

Kishan has been on a mental health break from the game since December 2023 while Jurel was given a Test call-up, based on his good showings in domestic cricket and India ‘A’ games. Hence, the call-ups of Kushagra and Upendra to the India ‘A’ team have two aims – of expanding the wicketkeeper pool in senior men’s cricket and give the ‘A’ level exposure to youngsters like Kushagra and Upendra.

When Kushagra’s India ‘A’ call-up came, the wicketkeeper-batter converted his overnight score of an unbeaten fifty into a fine 132 for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy match against Services at the Airforce Complex Ground in Palam, New Delhi. Last month, Kushagra had earned an astonishing INR 7.2 crore deal with Delhi Capitals at the IPL 2024 Player Auction in Dubai.

Ratra, who played six Tests and 12 ODIs for India, recalled seeing Kushagra as a young keeper a few years ago at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. “I still remember about doing an U16 camp with Kumar Kushagra in Bengaluru. The way he showcased his glovework at the U16 level, it made for a very impressive look.”

“The NCA has a lot of camps going on in a year and at that time, he was at the U16 level. Someone like Jayant Yadav was at the NCA for rehab or practice and he needed a wicketkeeper to do his bowling practice.

“We then sent Kumar for helping him and even though it was a practice session happening, he was catching balls at ease and gathered the deliveries very well. Seeing that, I got a feeling that he would be a decent keeper and has now done well at the domestic level.”

On the other hand, Upendra is a big-hitting wicket-keeper who has kept wickets and got big runs for Uttar Pradesh and Railways in first-class cricket. “I haven’t seen much of Upendra, but have heard a lot about him and read about his scores too. So, the India ‘A’ selection is a good opportunity for them and the way Dhruv Jurel entered India ‘A’ setup before getting the Test call-up, they can take inspiration from it.”

“If an overseas series comes up and whether India would take KL Rahul as a keeper there, there’s some time to it. But India ‘A’ selection is a good opportunity for both Upendra Yadav and Kumar Kushagra,” concluded Ratra.



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