New Delhi: The Mumbai allrounder Abhishek Nayar and Punjab fast bowler Sandeep Sharma, two of the best performers in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy season, have been left surprised and hurt by their absence from the Rest of India, India A and Board President's XI squads named on Tuesday by the BCCI.
Nayar was instrumental in Mumbai's run to the Ranji Trophy final - they subsequently lifted the title for the 40th time - with 966 runs at an average of 99.60 and 19 wickets, while 19-year-old Sandeep took 41 wickets in nine matches for Punjab as they stormed to the semi-finals. Nayar, 29, was the second-highest run-getter this season and scored the most fifties (eight) to go with three centuries, batting at Nos 5 and 6 for the majority of the season and bailing Mumbai out of trouble on several occasions. Sandeep, who was also India's highest wicket-taker at the Under-19 World Cup in 2012, carried his form into first-class cricket and was a massive influence on an unfancied and young Punjab team defying the odds to top Group A courtesy four outright wins.
Despite their success, the pair found themselves omitted from the three squads which were largely selected on domestic success and previous India A experience. Nayar will represent Mumbai in the Irani Trophy against Rest of India starting February 6, but his absence from the India A and Board President's XI squads was baffling considering he was the most consistent performer in the Ranji Trophy. Karnataka allrounder Stuart Binny, who scored 612 runs at 47.07 and took 19 wickets at 41.89, and Rajasthan's Ashok Maneria, with 446 runs at 31.85 and six wickets at 55, got the nod ahead of Nayar for the allrounder's slot. Two medium-pacers who took 20 wickets at 32.70 and 17 at 23.23 respectively, the Karnataka pair of Abhimanyu Mithun and R Vinay Kumar, secured spots in two of the three squads.
Nayar was very frustrated to see his name missing from the India A and Board President's XI squads despite his sparkling show, asserted that he would not let this setback deter him. "I don't know why am I not considered good enough to be selected in either the India A or Board President's XI team," he told Cricketnext. "After my all-round performance this year, I was definitely expecting a place in the team but I guess the selectors think differently. I scored heaps of runs in critical situations and picked up many wickets at crucial juncture. What more can I do? What more is expected out of me? To be honest, I am deeply frustrated at this moment to see some of the lesser players being picked ahead of me.
"Domestic cricket is considered as a benchmark and standard for selection in the national team and here I am not even getting picked for the India A team. This is a devaluation of the Ranji Trophy and India's domestic structure. It leaves performers like me bewildered as to what is the criterion for selection," he said. "But I will not let this to jolt me. I will look to up the ante and improve my performance in the next season."
Sandeep conceded that he was almost certain he would be picked given his brilliant show in the Ranji Trophy which was preceded by the Under-19 World Cup where he finished as India's most successful bowler and earned laurels from the likes of Wasim Akram and Ian Chappell. "I was sure that I will be selected in the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy and also in India A. I thought that I have an edge since I did well in the World Cup and followed it up with a strong performance in the Ranji Trophy. I was the highest wicket-taker in the league stage and Punjab won four outright victories, the most by any team. I am deeply disappointed and it is of course painful to see that some bowlers who have not grabbed half of the wickets that I have getting the favours from the selectors," he said.
Though confused over his omission, the 19-year-old believes that with age on his side he could represent India in the future. "Frankly I don't know why I am being ignored despite doing so well. The selectors are the best persons to answer this. They surely had some logic or points to not pick me. I am just 19 and will overcome this disappointment, work hard on my fitness and bowling. I am hopeful that if I continue to do well, my efforts will be duly rewarded."