Not one batsman or a bowler from among the top five Ranji Trophy performers in each category made it to the India team for the upcoming Champions Trophy.
The T20 League performances, on the other hand, yet again caught the attention of the selectors and were duly rewarded, what with quite a few making it despite relatively weaker Ranji performance.
Dinesh Karthik, for example, seems to have benefitted from his red-hot form in the domestic T20 league. While the Tamil Nadu wicket-keeper batsman (557 runs, 17 dismissals) had less runs and dismissals to show for in the Ranji than his competitors Parthiv Patel (895 runs, 18 dismissals), CM Gautam (943 runs, 34 dismissals) and Wriddhiman Saha (558 runs, 28 dismissals), his better showing in T20 apparently clinched the deal for him.
Similarly, Irfan Pathan missed almost the entire Ranji Trophy due to injury and Vinay Kumar too had an average season. But their T20 league showings helped them stay ahead of their potential replacements like Abhishek Nayar - the Mumbai allrounder was the second highest run-getter with 966 runs and 19 wickets - and Ishwar Pandey, the highest wicket-taker with 48 scalps.
To be fair, the apparent beneficiaries of the T20 showings have been in and out of India team for a while and had, besides their showing in the T20 league, their past record and potential to win the approval. The other argument in their favour is that they performed against quality international opponents in the league. Also, the Ranji Trophy couldn't be the lone criterion for a 50-over tournament.
So while there may be nothing wrong with the side picked by the selectors or with them factoring in the T20 league showings, the apparent cold shouldering of the Ranji performers could make players focus entirely on T20 and ignore the four-day format.
As it is, the rumours are rife that many players, especially pace bowlers, fake injuries to escape the rigmarole of first-class cricket and save themselves for the far more rewarding and much less taxing T20 league. Last year, for instance, a state association gave a severe dressing down to one of its leading pacers for apparently not giving his 100% in the Ranji Trophy. No wonder, chief selector Sandip Patil implored the youngsters to focus more on Test than T20 cricket.
Can’t be blamed
But could players be blamed if they get the message that apart from being a gold mine, the T20 league is also a launch pad to the India team.
"IPL form should not be the only criteria for picking a player for the India team. Selectors should look at the performance of the player throughout the domestic season and see where he stands in different formats," said former selector Bhupinder Singh (Sr).
The selector further said that performance in the Ranji Trophy is taken note of and the top performers are picked for India A tours, and Board President XI and warm-up games against the touring sides to push for their selection in the national team.
Fair enough. The only problem is: the T20 league performers generally don't have to prove themselves on various platforms. One good show, unlike the Ranji performers, is often good enough for them to seal the deal.
With inputs from Aushtosh Sharma