New Delhi: The Indian selection committee surprised quite a few when they decide to go with Karun Nair as replacement for India skipper Virat Kohli, who has opted out of the one-off Test against Afghanistan to prepare for the England series that follows. While the skipper's decision to skip national duty has been a topic of debate, what has also raised a few eyebrows in the BCCI corridors is the decision to once again overlook someone like Mayank Agarwal.
Mayank scored over 2000 runs in the just concluded Indian domestic season. But the Karnataka lad has not been considered for a place in the Indian squad due to an 'unofficial diktat', according to which players need to first perform well for the India ‘A’ team before they can be picked for the national team. People with knowledge of the situation have informed Cricketnext that with Rahul Dravid in charge of the U-19 and ‘A’ team, the national selectors seemingly have agreed that the ideal feeder line is to first have players perform in the ‘A’ team before they are rewarded with national caps, an arrangement backed by Dravid himself.
But the move hasn’t gone down too well with some BCCI officials who feel in that case there is no need to have national selectors as extraordinary domestic performances will mean nothing. Also, they feel that it gives out the wrong signal to the youngsters who already feel that playing the IPL and performing well there is more important than slogging it out in tournaments like the Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Speaking to CricketNext, a senior BCCI official said: “The selection of the India ‘A’ team by the selectors has indeed exposed the selectors and the selection policies to a lot of criticism. India ‘A’ team selection was never really scrutinised earlier since these tours were always to give exposure to the performers and to the established as well. These tours were preparation. Now apparently, it is reliably learnt that Dravid has put forth a policy that only if one performs for India ‘A’ should he be given an India cap. If this is indeed the case then it is alarming at different levels.”
Another BCCI official echoed the sentiments and said that one cannot forget that grinding it out in domestic cricket must be given its due. Also, he feels that getting suggestions from a former player is one thing and requiring his stamp of approval is another.
“Firstly, the policy has not been discussed at any forum in the BCCI. Secondly, though the selectors may come up with a consistent policy, it needs to be thought through and should not be a half-baked idea being implemented. India’s premier domestic tournament is the Ranji Trophy and performance in that tournament has to count for something more than merely being selected for an ‘A’ tour where even the playing XI would be decided by the coach and the captain. If the prerequisite for an India call-up is to play ‘A’ team cricket then the Ranji Trophy does lose significance and that is unacceptable.
“Thirdly, the ‘A’ tour circuit is a very disorganised structure and depends upon a lot of factors and if you notice, last year had only two tours, one where we visited South Africa for 2 multi-day games and a one day series and the other where New Zealand visited us for 2 multi-day games and 5 limited-over games. Fourthly, some of the selections on these tours are being done on the players’ performance in the IPL and this is alarming as well because it lends another impetus to the players in the IPL rather than the ones slogging away on the first-class scene. Team composition of an IPL franchise may bench a superb Indian player at the cost of a foreign player while another may get chances with another franchise and is therefore more on the radar of the selectors who are falling into this trap. It is no surprise that some of the youngsters are more keen to play IPL than to play Ranji trophy,” he explained.
“Therefore, if the only tour of the ‘A’ team after the start of the 2017-18 domestic season in September 2017 would be in June 2018, then how on earth would a Mayank Agarwal with more than 2000 runs in that season stand a chance to represent India. So what the selectors and Dravid are essentially saying is that you may score 2300 runs in the season and you may be in the form of your life, but till the BCCI organises an ‘A’ tour and till you play there, we don’t know you from Adam. This is a ridiculous state of affairs.”
Interestingly, one of the current national selectors had told the reporter when the squad for the Nidahas Trophy tri-series was selected that players needed to come through the ranks. This was in response to why Mayank was ignored even after scoring 1160 runs in the Ranji Trophy at 105.45 with 5 hundreds.
“You cannot jump the queue and have to come through the ranks to get picked. He is in the mix and will be considered at the right time,” the selector had said.
Clearly, the failures in the ongoing IPL has ensured that Nair got the nod ahead of Mayank with Kohli headed to Surrey. Nair has had a decent season in the middle-order for Kings XI Punjab, scoring 243 runs in 10 games with a strike-rate of 130.64. In contrast, Mayank has scored 118 runs in 9 games and was dropped as his highest score has been 30.
Another former selector refuses to buy the on-going process and said that while following a feeder line was fine, extraordinary performances in domestic cricket needed to be acknowledged as well. He went on to add that Dravid’s recommendation can be a reference point for the selectors, but they themselves need to check players doing well at the domestic level.
“I have no problem with Dravid’s recommendation. He has done exceedingly well for the country and his experience helps. But it is for the selectors to decide on the team. During our time also, we would have senior or former players giving us a few suggestions on players to keep an eye on. But the final call was ours.
“While giving players doing well in the ‘A’ team or the U-19 team an opportunity is fine, but the selectors also need to pick domestic talent. A player who has scored 2000-odd runs in a calendar year cannot be ignored because he wasn’t part of the ‘A’ team. Similarly, if a bowler picks say 40 wickets in a season, he must be given the due recognition. The job of the selectors is to not just recognize talent, but also give them the due reward,” he signed off.