The onset of T20 cricket has changed every dimension of the game.
Leaving the ball alone is a rare sight, defensive skills have taken a backseat and the art of blunting the new ball and countering the swing are things of the past. For today’s young brigade, it’s up and over with the glitz and glamour of the IPL (Indian Premier League) serving as a ticket to the Indian dressing room.
Young Indian batters, with their audacious pyrotechnics in the IPL, have not only garnered name and fame but have also received an India call-up. The selection process has left many baffled, with some experts feeling that the BCCI is ignoring performances in domestic cricket and that the IPL has become the lone benchmark for players to get the India cap.
Jaiswal, Gaikwad in India’s Test squad
Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad have been selected in India’s Test squad and the richly talented duo will travel to West Indies as India begins its new World Test Championship (WTC) cycle.
With Cheteshwar Pujara, the Test specialist, getting dropped after a poor WTC final outing against Australia, either Jaiswal or Gaikwad could take guard as India’s new No.3 in their first Test series.
The selection criteria
What went in favour of Jaiswal, and also Gaikwad, who has 10 limited-overs games under his belt for India, ahead of the likes of Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sarfaraz Khan, is the fact that both batters had extremely successful IPL seasons where they scored a truckload of runs.
Jaiswal entered record books by becoming the highest-scoring uncapped player in a single season of the IPL. He amassed 625 runs in the 14 matches he played for Rajasthan Royals at an average of 48.08, a strike rate of 148.73, and with a century and eight fifties. The left-hander has also scored 1,667 runs in 12 matches while averaging 83.35 in the last two domestic red-ball seasons.
Gaikwad, on the other hand, shone for Chennai Super Kings with his pristine hitting. Essaying his role as opener to perfection under the leadership of MS Dhoni, Gaikwad hammered 590 runs in 16 matches at an average of 42.14 and with a strike rate of 147.50. However, Gaikwad has only played four red-ball games in the past two domestic seasons, scoring 354 runs at 52.00 for Maharashtra.
The senior men’s selection committee, headed by Shiv Sunder Das, did take the IPL performances into account but there appears to be a school of thought behind the selection. The IPL involves high-profile quality players and the ability to sparkle and take on the world’s best bowlers is something that has impressed the selectors. Similarly, young Indian bowlers like Arshdeep Singh too have grabbed the selectors’ attention by lighting up the bails and breaking timber.
Gavaskar blasts selectors
However, former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar came down heavily on the BCCI and the selectors for ignoring players who have performed consistently at the domestic level.
The legendary batter was furious as the selectors once again ignored Sarfaraz, who has set the domestic stage on fire. The Mumbai batter averages 79.65 and has scored 3,505 runs in the 37 First-Class games he has played, with 13 centuries and nine fifties. With a highest of an unbeaten 301, the 25-year-old is only the third batter, behind Ajay Sharma and Wasim Jaffer, to breach the 900-run mark in two different editions of the Ranji Trophy and the first player to achieve the feat in successive tournaments.
“Sarfaraz Khan has been scoring at an average of 100 in all past three seasons. What does he have to do to be picked in the squad? He might not be in the XI, but you pick him in the team. Tell him that his performances are being recognized. Otherwise, stop playing Ranji Trophy. Say, it’s of no use, you just play IPL and think you are good enough for the red-ball game as well,” Gavaskar said.
The case is the same with Easwaran, who has scored top-order runs while playing for India A and Bengal. The India cap still eludes the 27-year-old and it might remain a dream given the selectors vision of blooding youngsters.
Both Sarfaraz and Easwaran deserve a chance to at least board the plane with the Indian Test team. But one can’t fault the highly skilled Gaikwad and Jaiswal, who have rehearsed resolutely in the nets and set up a batting exhibition each time they have walked out to wield the willow.
The IPL has been a boon as it has unearthed hidden talent and produced players like Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya, who have become towering pillars of Indian cricket. However, highly skilled players, who plough through rough terrains, serve their states with discipline and dedication and produce masterclasses far away from the razzmatazz, deserve a chance to showcase their talent. And those directing the game in this country must strike a balance between the classical and the contemporary.
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