Per­for­mances in Ranji Tro­phy don’t guar­an­tee In­dia berths

Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Sportsmax - Ab­hishek Paul ab­[email protected]

NEW DELHI: On the fi­nal day of the Ranji Tro­phy ti­tle clash be­tween Vi­darbha and Saurash­tra on Thurs­day, the na­tional se­lec­tors an­nounced the In­dia A squad for the four-day game against Eng­land Lions in Mysore, start­ing on Fe­bru­ary 13.

Bar­ring Ben­gal’s Ab­hi­manyu Easwaran (861 runs) and Gu­jarat’s Priyank Pan­chal (898 runs), none of the top 10 run-get­ters or wicket-tak­ers from Ranji Tro­phy this sea­son found them­selves in the squad.

While the com­po­si­tion of the In­dia A side is made with an eye on the na­tional side’s needs, the im­pact of a strong per­for­mance in the Ranji Tro­phy - In­dia’s pre­mier do­mes­tic cricket com­pe­ti­tion - re­mains un­clear.

NOT COM­PET­I­TIVE

This year’s top run-get­ters’ is led by Milind Ku­mar (1331) of Sikkim, a plate di­vi­sion side. In fact, five of both the top 10 run-get­ters and top 10 wicket-tak­ers were from the plate teams.

With plate teams be­ing from the lower rung, the num­bers notched by their play­ers al­most al­ways count for noth­ing when it comes to na­tional se­lec­tion.

Then there are play­ers like Vi­darbha’s Wasim Jaf­fer, who ag­gre­gated 1037 runs to be sec­ond on the run-get­ters’ list. The se­lec­tors, how­ever, seem to have counted him out of In­dia reck­on­ing as, at 40, he doesn’t have age on his side.

WAIT AND WATCH

The ar­gu­ment that the se­lec­tors might want to look at the elite di­vi­sion per­form­ers for some time be­fore giv­ing them a ‘na­tional’ go-ahead is right, but a look at what hap­pened with the top per­form­ers of the 2017-18 Ranji Tro­phy sea­son gives a mixed pic­ture. Some man­aged to get op­por­tu­ni­ties while oth­ers couldn’t.

Two of the top 10 run-get­ters in the pre­vi­ous sea­son, Kar­nataka opener Mayank Agar­wal and Andhra all-rounder Hanuma Vi­hari, made their Test debut in 2018. Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini, who picked 34 wick­ets in the pre­vi­ous Ranji sea­son, was picked

for the In­dia squad in the one-off Test against Afghanistan in June 2018, but was not part of the play­ing XI. Kar­nataka off-spin­ner Kr­ish­nappa Gowtham and Ker­ala all-rounder Jalaj Saxena, among the top 10 wicket-tak­ers last sea­son, have reg­u­larly fea­tured for In­dia A.

How­ever, not all have been for­tu­nate. Saurash­tra left-arm spin­ner Dhar­men­dras­inh Jadeja and Vi­darbha left-arm spin­ner Aditya Sar­wate picked 34 and 29 wick­ets re­spec­tively last sea­son. This sea­son they are among the top three wicket-tak­ers with 59 and 55 wick­ets. But both have not found a place in In­dia A. Nei­ther has Faiz Fazal, who scored 912 last sea­son and 752 this sea­son.

Such cases point to the fact that though Ranji Tro­phy re­mains the pre­mier do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion, its role in de­cid­ing fu­ture play­ers is blurred. Some­times good per­for­mances of­ten do not trans­late into smooth pro­gres­sion to the na­tional fold.

Ra­jneesh Gur­bani, the sec­ond high­est-wicket taker of the 2017-18 sea­son with 39 scalps, got a chance in the In­dia A. He was part of the Eng­land tour in June and the New Zealand tour in Oc­to­ber but is now out of the squad. He has also not been able to keep up his form in Ranji Tro­phy with six wick­ets in six matches in 2018-19.

The se­lec­tors don’t seem to give im­por­tance to Ranji match prac­tice. A week be­fore this sea­son be­gan on Nov 1, the se­lec­tors named In­dia A team for New Zealand, start­ing on Nov 16. The pac­ers named in the In­dia A side were, how­ever, asked to be re­lieved from the first round of Ranji games which ran from Nov 1-4.

PTI

■ Vi­darbha, who have won the Ranji Tro­phy twice, have had just one player go on to rep­re­sent In­dia A.

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