Of late, a trend has emerged whereby any first-class player or even an India under-19 player with a few performances under his belt expects to be picked for the country. In fact, the talk in cricketing circles is that India U-19 is used as a shortcut to international cricket.
However, Dilip Vengsarkar, chairing his first selection committee meeting, minced no words when he went on record to say that the country doesn’t have enough talented players at the moment.
For the team’s think tank the message was very clear: not to experiment with too many mediocre players; and for the fringe players, the message is that there is no place to hide in the name of trials and tests.
Vengsarkar’s statement could be seen as a bit of a dampener for aspiring youngsters who are knocking at the doors. These youngsters must not only take a cue but also be more sensitive to the statement and upgrade their current performances.
The new format of Duleep Trophy in inviting a foreign team did provide an opportunity for all the teams to put on their best performance, but Sri Lanka A has surprised every one.
That fact that Sri Lanka’s second rung players have reached the finals of our most competitive tournament in a way endorses Vengsarkar’s views. The victory of an A side from any country abroad speaks volumes of its bench strength. If Sri Lanka A were to win the Duleep Trophy, I must admit it would be embarrassing for all of us.
Players who compete against each other at the state level find it hard to understand the team dynamics when they play for their respective zones, so it is not surprising to see some players on their own trip of scoring runs and getting wickets irrespective of the need of the team.
Gautam Gambhir has had a good run in this tournament. I am sure the Delhi southpaw was eagerly waiting for a recall for the South Africa tour. A stern lesson from his non-inclusion is that players once tried and tested are not always as favoured as new and upcoming ones. The same logic applies to Robin Uthappa, who has missed out on the one-dayers.
Sourav Ganguly’s hundred in the last match must have raised his confidence and motivation levels. For now, he needs to be self-motivated, scoring tons of runs at every opportunity. This is where the game is such a big leveller. Arguably the most successful Indian captain will have to stand in the queue seeking selection.
Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan celebrated their recall with stellar performances initially. Ashish Nehra has toiled hard on lifeless wickets in Jamshedpur and Guwahati while Tamil Nadu’s Yo Mahesh, has impressed too. But for the moment, the onus is on North Zone to hold on to the cup which otherwise could slip out of our hands into those of the neighbouring country's A team.