There was a time when the cricket season lasted for nearly six months while during the remaining time there was virtually no cricket played. These days with the packed international schedule there is hardly any time between tours and tournaments. Cricket is played virtually round the year.
The Indian team in particular has perhaps the most hectic schedule among all Test playing countries, so for them to have a break of some four months between competitions is certainly news.
The Indians last played an international tournament when they took part in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh in March - a competition made famous by Sachin Tendulkar reaching his long awaited 100th international hundred. Now they make their next trip when they go to Sri Lanka towards the end of this month for a short tour consisting of five ODIs and a Twenty20 game.
So this can be considered as the start of the 2012-13 season which is packed for all international teams and not unexpectedly more so for India. They play no away Tests for sometime but they will be touring for limited over competition with chief interest surrounding the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Sri Lanka in September.
At home though the story is quite different for India are to play hosts to more than one country for Tests besides of course limited over matches.
Well begun is half done and the Kris Srikkanth led selection committee has done a commendable job in picking a squad which has the right blend of youth and experience. The Indian team is in the process of rebuilding what with the retirement of Rahul Dravid, the uncertainty over VVS Laxman's future and with Sachin Tendulkar being in and out of the ODI squad. Injury worries are also a factor what with the amount of cricket being played these days.
Fortunately the reserve strength is admirable and if the India A team's tour of the West Indies was not exactly a success the performance of the Under-19 team in sharing honours with Pakistan in the Asia Cup tournament was quite encouraging. Unmukt Chand the captain is obviously one with a bright future.
There is little doubt that Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane are the leaders of the GenNext of Indian batting and they should be given every opportunity to cement their places in the Test side. Constant inclusion in the ODI squad is one way of going about this for a splendid performance here could well see the player elevated to the Test team. Manoj Tiwari and Cheteshwar Pujara too are right up there. The latter was one of the few batting successes on the A team's tour of the West Indies but in method and approach he is more suited to Test cricket.
The selectors, however, have done well in including Tiwari in the squad to tour Sri Lanka. Of course players like Suresh Raina, Virender
Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are certainties and they provide the vast experience.
On the face of it there are a number of young pace bowling hopefuls but the question is how good are they? Vinay Kumar is probably lucky to find a place for he can be quite profligate. I would have preferred Praveen Kumar (on performance) and Varun Aaron (on potential). It is good to have Zaheer Khan back even if he is in the evening of his career besides battling fitness problems. But he remains an inspirational figure and Ashok Dinda and Umesh Yadav can learn much from him.
Given the fact that spin bowling is Indian cricket's traditional strength it is a matter of concern that the spin bowling cupboard if not entirely bare does not possess bowlers of a very high quality. The eclipse of Harbhajan Singh - one hopes temporarily - has left a void which has not been adequately filled.
Surely Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra have been given opportunities but they have flattered only to deceive. Pragyjan Ojha too has been given a long rope and perhaps this is his last chance to really cement his place in the side. Ravichandran Ashwin is just about the spin spearhead with his batting being a bonus but chief interest will again centre round Rahul Sharma.
The young leg spinner is certainly the brightest prospect and it was hoped that the A team's tour of the West Indies would be an ideal opportunity for him to showcase his considerable talent. While not exactly a disappointment he should have done much better.
The question will also be asked in the wake of their omission whether the last been heard of over rated players like Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan.