Performances in Ranji Trophy don’t guarantee India berths
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.
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.
Vidarbha, who have won the Ranji Trophy twice, have had just one player go on to represent India A.