The Cup that cheers no more

The Irani Cup had great significance in the years gone by, but it does appear that no one is bothered about it these days. Over the years, the selection committee has also been whimsical while picking the Rest of India side.

The Indian domestic season 2014-15 is almost over but for the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, which is slated to be completed before the start of the IPL. The season was yet again dominated by Karnataka, which completed the treble — winning the Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Irani Cup for the second successive year. In as much as it is a credit to the Karnataka side, it has to be said that the team was largely helped by the indifferent attitude displayed by the Rest of India players. That a side supposedly comprising the best of talent available caved in meekly by the end of the fourth day in a five-day game left a lot to be desired.

The Rest of India did not put up even a semblance of a fight and lost the game outright after securing a slender first innings lead. For those who were present at the venue watching the proceedings, it was evident that the Rest of India team was just going through the motions. The Irani Cup had great significance in the years gone by, but it does appear that no one is bothered about it these days. Over the years, the selection committee has also been whimsical while picking the Rest of India side. What prevented the National selection committee from picking the best side possible is a question that will remain unanswered. No doubt, some of the players who played the Irani Cup performed well enough in the Ranji season, but not many looked like they would make the cut for the senior side in the near future.

For those in the know of the happenings in the domestic circuit, the criteria for selection were incomprehensible. One failed to understand if the side was picked on performances, or talent, or far-sightedness. It seemed like a policy of “different strokes for different people” was adopted. Without wanting to go into specific details, if the selection committee were to tell me that the Rest of India team they picked was the best, then Indian cricket is in serious trouble. Among all the players on view, only Varun Aaron ( in pic) looked the part as he returned with career-best figures.

The others, palpably, looked all at sea against a good attack on a pitch that was full of runs. It was a poor display by any standards from the Rest of India batsmen for the simple reason that there was no century from any of them. Kedhar Jadhav notched up a couple of half-centuries but his performance was not convincing enough to suggest that he was a cut above the rest. The entire selection committee was present at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, and it would have been embarrassing for them to see Karnataka annihilate the side they picked.

If the players are to be blamed for their indifferent attitude, the selectors are equally responsible for it. They seemed to lack a clear-cut vision when they sat down to pick the Rest of India side. I for one would like the selection committee to pick players more on their attitude than their numbers alone. Then, of course, if numbers alone were the criterion, half of the Rest of India team should have been different. It was sad to see a game (Irani Cup) of very high significance reduced to almost a farce due to the all-round lackadaisical attitude. In a way, I can understand the players feeling a wee bit stale after a long season, but the selectors cannot take shelter along those lines.

It is about time the selection committee realises that it is the cause and, as such, it has to cop some blame for the effect.