The season of slam-bang cricket is here. As the evening progresses, the television ratings across the country take a flight in these few weeks, and the season discovers some newer talents every time. Some hog the limelight with the bat, others with the ball and some for their fascinating efforts on the field.
Well, that’s what the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all about. It brings out the talents one had never heard of. And, it celebrates newer heroes — season after season!
But then, there is also more to it than meets the eye.
Just like the other side of the coin, the cash-rich league has also time and again conveniently kept aside the talents, who made all heads turn in the domestic season. While that has raised question marks on the ultimate focus of the league, it has also put a blot on the relevance of top performances in the domestic tournaments. While some of the rookie cricketers, with a strictly average domestic season, have received plum contracts from the franchises, some of the consistent performers have been left out.
The fact that domestic performance is certainly not a benchmark for the IPL is evident as the most consistent performer in Ranji Trophy — Ankit Bawne — gets picked by Delhi Daredevils only in the 10th edition, or Ishank Jagggi gets a contract after a long hiatus.
Perhaps, that’s why, as Sportstar got in touch with some of the top performers of this season’s Ranji Trophy, a few of them rued about missing out on IPL contracts, while others chose to take it in a sporting spirit. As the cricket enthusiasts gear up for more days of quick and fast cricket, a Samit Gohel or a Anupam Sanklecha quietly gear up for their county stints, despite proving their mettle with the willow or the red cherry at the domestic level.
PRIYANK PANCHAL (Gujarat)
An unbeaten knock of 314, and an average of 87.33 is not something one gets to see every day. But for Gujarat batsman Priyank Panchal, it has been a season to remember. Picking up 1,310 runs in 10 games, the 27-year-old batsman became the highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy, only to be snubbed in the IPL.
As some of his State-mates don the IPL colours, the batsman is enjoying the break, working hard on his fitness. As he starts speaking, there is a clear sense of disappointment in his voice. “I am planning for the next season already. There are a few things I am working on,” he says, adding that he will be working hard in the next two months to maintain the old rhythm.
With five centuries and four half-centuries in his kitty, Panchal was hoping for an IPL contract, but that eluded him. “After scoring the highest number of runs, I was obviously expecting a break in the IPL, but may be, the franchises had other plans,” Panchal says.
As he trains in the next few months with an intention to maintain the dream run, Panchal, too, would be hoping to break into the big league next time.
NITIN SAINI (Haryana)
The batsman from Haryana piled up 989 runs in 10 matches, with an average of 61.81 in the Ranji Trophy. But even then, he has missed out on an IPL berth. That, however, hasn’t affected his morale. Saini has bucked himself up to play the local tournaments for his office team — Food Corporation of India. And on days he is not playing, the 28-year-old is busy sweating it out at the nets in Rohtak. “After delivering the goods, I was expecting an IPL contract. But some things are not in my hands,” Saini rues. In the past, he has been a part of Kings XI Punjab, as a player of local catchment. However, things have changed in the last few years. Despite shining at the domestic level, the world of IPL has eluded Saini. “There is no point in brooding over it. I am rather working on the flaws,” he says, adding that a call-up in the India A team is something he is looking for. “That would be a great thing. I want to prove myself,” says Saini. For that, he is ready to walk the extra mile.
PRASHANT CHOPRA (Himachal Pradesh)
At 24, Prashant Chopra has a clear idea about what it takes to perform under pressure. He talks at length about his game, and is absolutely clear in his head about what he wants from the game. After amassing 978 runs in the Ranji Trophy, the Himachal Pradesh cricketer was hoping to get picked by one of the IPL franchises. That didn’t happen. But then, Chopra has made it a point to work hard on his game, and is playing regularly in the Uttarakhand Cricket League. “This time no franchise had released its batsmen from last season, so the road to IPL was tough. But then, I was hopeful of getting picked,” Chopra says. The youngster, however, admits that with the local catchment policy done away with, it has become more challenging for the domestic players to make the cut. “Each and every franchise has its own plan. May be, we don’t fit in there,” he says. While an IPL berth has eluded him, Chopra believes another successful domestic season would help him find a taker in the IPL. That’s what keeps him running!
SAMIT GOHEL (Gujarat)
As Gujarat clinched the Ranji Trophy earlier this year, it saw two triple-centuries being scored by two of its batsmen. While Priyank Panchal played a knock of 314, his team-mate Samit Gohel scored a record innings of 359 not out. With a total of 914 runs, Gohel has still not made it to the IPL bandwagon. Instead of ruing over it, the young cricketer is on way his way to the UK, to play the county league for Wellington Cricket Club in Birmingham. “I am supposed to play with the Wellington club till September. My target is to be prepared for the next season,” Gohel says. While an IPL contract has eluded him, the batsman makes it clear that his ultimate aim is to put up consistent performances at the domestic level. “That’s all I can do,” Gohel says with a smile, adding that he is working hard to improve on his fitness level too.
PARVEZ RASOOL (Jammu and Kashmir)
There is a clear disturbance in the phone line, and Parvez Rasool can’t hear half the questions. He is not in Srinagar these days, and his usual number is not working half the time. “Actually, I am in Dhaka these days. That’s why there are network issues,” Rasool tells Sportstar .
What is he doing in the Bangladesh capital? Well, despite having a remarkable Ranji Trophy outing (629 runs and 38 wickets), Rasool hasn’t been picked by any of the IPL teams. And, perhaps that’s why, he has travelled all the way to Bangladesh to play in the Dhaka Premier League. “That way, I will at least be able to utilise my time better,” Rasool says, adding that an IPL snub has come as a surprise for him. “Seriously, this is hard to believe that I am not a part of the IPL this year,” he says.
The first cricketer from the valley to make the Team India cut, Rasool has been an inspiration for his State-mates. But now, with no IPL contracts, he too is looking for an answer. “All I can do is try and improve my game day by day. That’s all I am doing — looking forward to delivering the goods in every game,” he says, hoping that things will change for the better. Very soon, may be!
ANUPAM SANKLECHA (Maharashtra)
Even after taking 43 wickets in the Ranji Trophy, Maharashtra bowler Anupam Sanklecha finds himself out of favour in the IPL. Like most of the players, this experienced performer, too, was hoping for an IPL break, only to return empty-handed.
And now, to ensure that he is all prepared for the next season, Sanklecha travels to Oxford on May 1 to play for the county side Shipton under Witchwood. This is his fourth season with the English side, and Sanklecha says, that is all he can do to prove himself.
“I don’t know why they (the franchises) did not pick me. Of course, the expectations were high, but then…” Sanklecha takes a pause, and continues, “There’s nothing much we can do about it.” While he will be in the UK for a few months, Sanklecha wants to return home high on confidence, and hopes to strike again next season.
PANKAJ SINGH (Rajasthan)
If there is anyone who could be termed as ‘Mr. Consistent’, it is undoubtedly Pankaj Singh. The medium pacer from Rajasthan has scalped 41 wickets this season, but has failed to make it to the IPL. In the past, he has been a part of Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, but for the last three seasons, he has been out of favour. “I don’t know what’s going wrong,” Pankaj had told Sportstar after he went unsold in the IPL auction in February. But even then, he wants to continue playing in the Ranji Trophy for one more season. “The ultimate aim is to don the India colours again. Let’s see how it goes,” Pankaj, who played two Tests against England in 2014, says.
SUDIP CHATTERJEE (Bengal)
Many in the cricketing fraternity believe that Bengal batsman Sudip Chatterjee is tailor-made for the longer version of the game. And, he has proved it right by scoring 557 runs in the Ranji Trophy — becoming one of the most consistent performers for his State team.
Even then, he is not a part of the IPL. “There is no point in thinking too much about it. It is better that I focus on my game,” Chatterjee says, from Kolkata. While he is busy with his fitness regime, Chatterjee is utilising the off-season by playing for his office club, Metro Railways. He is also a regular in the Calcutta Club Cricket circuit. “That’s how I am keeping myself ready,” he says. However, Chatterjee is not ready to call himself a long-form specialist. “I have performed well in the limited overs tournaments too,” he says, adding that more successful seasons may open the door for the IPL.
And not just them; there are quite a few other cricketers like Rahul Singh, Shagun Kamat or Abhinav Mukund, who have failed to make it to the IPL frenzy. While they all look determined to come back stronger next season, there is hope that a few names from the list will finally find a place in one of the franchises.
But for now, domestic flights seem to have take-off troubles!
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