Amit Bhandari, the Delhi pace bowler who has been clearly struggling with his fitness after undergoing a shoulder surgery four months ago, has been included in the team despite the fact that the team physio deems him "match-unfit".
However, the chairman of the selection committee, Atul Wasan, assured the media on Saturday that Bhandari was picked only after they got a go-ahead from the physio, P Badrinath.
Making his first Ranji team public on Saturday, Wasan said of Bhandari, "A player of his repute should be given a chance to prove himself." When it was pointed out to him that Bhandari's injury is hampering him, as is evident at the ongoing camp where he has not been throwing the ball and has been bowling at well below his wonted pace, Wasan said: "Even Tendulkar plays with injuries. We can always hide one player in the field. After all, Bhandari has served Delhi for so long."
Even Bhandari would be gratified with this huge compliment with the batting wizard!
Wasan justified the inclusion of veterans Vijay Dahiya and Rahul Sanghvi on the grounds that the team needs their experience.
That was not all. Off-spinner Yogesh Sachdeva, whose father is a senior Sports Committee member, was picked even though spinners Suhail Sharma and Abhishek Sharma have performed better over the last few years.
Asked if the DDCA Sports Committee played a role in this strange selection policy of ignoring the performers, Wasan said, "Sachdeva took five wickets against Railways, so how could we ignore his claim?"
Sachdeva took seven wickets in two Ranji matches last season. Abhishek, who has played for the India U-19 team in the World Cup, took eight wickets in the same number of matches, and is the better fielder and batsman of the two. Suhail, the best performer in the DDCA league and their standout spinner in the Ranji one-dayers last season, has been ignored once again.
Soon after Wasan declared that Bhandari was picked on the basis of the physio's go-ahead, HT got hold of a copy of the physio's report, which declared that "Bhandari is not fit at the moment".
When confronted with this revelation, Wasan did a volte face, saying, "We all know Bhandari is not fit as of now. But we want to keep him in the squad because we want to go in with our experienced players for the first few games. Even if Bhandari fails to play the first match, his services can be utilised in the remaining games."
Two selectors who did not wish to be named told HT that they were only verbally informed by Wasan that the physio had cleared Bhandari. "We have to believe our chairman if he says that the physio has declared a player fit," they said.
This confession can be no consolation for young players who have been performing consistently - and getting ignored consistently. Puneet Bisht, the wicketkeeper-batsman, for instance.
Bisht is the highest scorer for Delhi at the U-22 level with 303 runs in four matches this season, with one century. Playing for Delhi in the Ranji one-dayers last season, he even scored a century. Yet Bisht is not in the team, Dahiya is.