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IPL becoming shortcut for India cap

Avijit Das Patnaik

Updated: October 15, 2011, 11:32 PM IST
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Sreenath Aravind was surprised to hear he was selected to play for India in the first two ODIs vs England - according to reports. Surprised! This is an emotion you attach with an unexpected event. An event when you are not sure you are ready and deserve to be part of the event. The left arm medium pacer was possibly shocked too.
Even if he was not, he surely sent his followers in a state of shock, post the announcement. Playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he gave away 249 runs off his 24 overs in the recently concluded CLT20 event. That's an economy rate of 10.82; qualifying him amongst the worst five economy rate bowlers in CLT20 2011. It's a bigger surprise his side reached the final of the event, despite him playing all games!
To an observer who is studying the patterns, Aravind's selection wasn't a surprise. Rahul Sharma's call up too. Rahul hit the news thanks to IPL4 but domestically has done nothing worth even being discussed. Unless someone tells me that 17 wickets off 10 four-day first class games deserve an India cap. If anything, his batting average of 31, in the said games, looks more impressive! Here's sincerely hoping the selectors didn't pick him for his batting abilities.
To be fair to Aravind, his first class bowling figures of 68 wickets from 20 games are miles ahead of Sharma's achievements in that domain. Yet he was surprised with the call up, and rightly so. The kid must be given credit for the knowledge that the India cap came so easily to him, on a platter!
Going back in time, the distribution of India caps started with selection of Yusuf Pathan, post the inaugural IPL edition. Out of the nineteen players who made their ODI debuts subsequently, only Virat Kohli remained a consistent performer. In fact he has been outstanding till date. In between, we have distributed caps to the likes of Manpreet Gony, Abhishek Nayar, Sudeep Tyagi, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pankaj Singh and Naman Ojha, to name a few, who never made any impact either in internationals or in any future IPL editions.
The rest of the selected players had moderate to mixed results, either ways not lasting long with the national team. Or to put it in more correct way, the selectors didn't back them for long or had any grooming plans. They couldn't afford to, either; as they needed to drop players, to gift India caps to other IPL boys. Not to forget, the list above contains only players who played at least one game. We aren't yet accounting for players who joined the squad, for home or overseas tours, didn't play a single international and enjoyed a fully paid holiday. Nor are we accounting for the national T20 team as it's fair that IPL success boys get selected for that team.
With selection for the balance three ODIs vs England and three 'soft' home Tests vs WI around the corner, one can be sure of either of these names coming up - Manish Pandey, Ashok Menaria, Iqbal Abdullah, Paul Valthaty and I dare add Harbhajan Singh, he for lifting the CLT20 cup. Bhajji apart, all others would be surprised and shocked too.
Who minds it though? An India cap brings along a lot other opportunities in our current environment. One India cap gives the tag of 'current international' or an 'ex international', depending on which side of retirement the player stands. Either ways, for ages, those tags help one to cut ribbons in their hometown and around, do public speaking, get invited to events, do local ads and start writing columns - all of which generate revenue. Additionally, if the person has the looks and command over any language, some TV channel or the other will keep him engaged.
Thankfully, the selection committee has spared the Test team; to a large extent. The likes of Abhinav Mukund, Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra, S Badrinath, Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay were elevated based on stirring and consistent domestic performances. Some of them were not even performers for their IPL teams. It didn't help BCCI that the national Test team was compact, settled, experienced and ranked number one for some time. Hence drafting IPL flash-in-the-pans became that much tougher. Yet when BCCI got the slightest opportunity, they distributed the cap - Jaydev Unadkat is one name which immediately springs to mind.
In our daily lives - surprise is a rare emotion - certainly not in the positive aspects of life. When was the last time you got surprised on hearing your promotion? Or surprised at getting a pay hike? Or on getting a huge contract? Or on signing a big ticket customer? Most of the times when you get such news, you strongly believe you deserved it some time ago, feel happy, relieved and prepare for the next challenge. Fortunately for Indian domestic cricketers, BCCI has laid a straight jacket plan - perform in IPL and be sure of getting a 'son-in-law' equivalent treatment.
Obviously this 'scheme' will not please any domestic cricketer. Not the player who travels by second class to reach the field, is dumped in shady inns during matches, waits patiently for a relative of an influential person to fail before he gets his chance, gets bullied by umpires and seniors, gets limited practice facilities, comforts and yet doesn't have the dazzling strokes to attract a franchise owner. Now is not the time for a domestic cricketer to dream playing for the national team, if he cannot throw the kitchen sink and play the big strokes. It won't then matter even if he has the most important 3-Ts to play the game - Technique, Temperament and Tenacity.
First Published: October 15, 2011, 11:32 PM IST

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