Young Wicketkeeping Talents Kushagra and Upendra Shine in India ‘A’ Team

With KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel securing Test spots, attention turns to Kumar Kushagra and Upendra Yadav in the India ‘A’ team for the second and third four-day games against England Lions. Their inclusion indicates a focus on domestic performances and expands the wicketkeeping talent pool.

As KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel gear up for the first two Test games against England in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, the spotlight turns to the promising wicketkeeping talents, Kumar Kushagra and Upendra Yadav. Recently included in the India ‘A’ team for the upcoming four-day games against England Lions in Ahmedabad, the duo’s selection underscores their potential and places them on the radar of the selection committee.

India ‘A’ – A Crucible for Talent

Former India wicketkeeper-batter Ajay Ratra highlighted the significance of India ‘A’ being considered the second-best Test team. In an exclusive conversation with IANS, Ratra expressed that the selection of Kushagra and Upendra for these games indicates that the selectors and team management have been monitoring their impressive domestic performances over an extended period.

“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,” Ratra remarked.

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Wicketkeeping Dynamics in the Absence of Pant

With Rishabh Pant still in recovery mode from injuries sustained in a car accident in December 2022, the Indian team has witnessed the rotation of three different wicketkeepers in Test cricket since February 2023 – Bharat, Ishan Kishan, and KL Rahul.

Bharat, who spent considerable time in the ‘A’ team set-up, gradually ascended to the Test level. Rahul, primarily a wicketkeeper in ODIs, also took on the gloves during the Test tour of South Africa. Kishan, currently on a mental health break since December 2023, and Jurel, who earned a Test call-up based on strong performances, have further contributed to the evolving wicketkeeping dynamics.

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The Dual Purpose of ‘A’ Team Call-Ups

The inclusion of Kushagra and Upendra in the India ‘A’ team serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it aims to expand the pool of wicketkeepers available for selection in senior men’s cricket. Secondly, it provides a valuable ‘A’ level exposure to young talents like Kushagra and Upendra, allowing them to refine their skills and gain crucial experience.

Impressive Performances and Opportunities

Kushagra’s recent call-up to the India ‘A’ team followed an impressive performance in a Ranji Trophy match where he converted an overnight score of an unbeaten fifty into a fine 132 for Jharkhand at the Airforce Complex Ground in Palam, New Delhi. Last month, he secured 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 witnessing Kushagra’s glovework as a young keeper at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. He noted that Kushagra’s skills, displayed at the U16 level, left a lasting impression.

On the other hand, Upendra, known for his big-hitting prowess, has been a consistent performer for Uttar Pradesh and Railways in first-class cricket. While Ratra admitted not having seen much of Upendra personally, he acknowledged the positive buzz surrounding Upendra’s performances.

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A Path to International Recognition

As India ‘A’ team selection often serves as a stepping stone to the senior national team, Ratra concluded that the opportunity provided to Upendra Yadav and Kumar Kushagra is significant. He suggested that their performance at the ‘A’ level could potentially lead to consideration for overseas series, presenting a chance for them to prove their mettle on the international stage.