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Pujara’s exclusion most shocking; Abhishek Nayar among deserving players to be given a raw deal by selectors

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

Selection committees change, irrationality remains. The five ‘wise’ men of Indian cricket have proved that yet again while picking the teams for the two warm-ups against Australia and the Irani Trophy.

The most inexplicable of all their decisions biggest is that of Cheteshwar Pujara. The prolific right-hander hasn’t found a place in any of the three sides – Rest of India (ROI), Board President’s XI (BPXI) and India A. It is astonishing because Pujara has been on the bench for quite some time and is short of quality match practice in the lead-up to the Australia series. He might get to play a little domestic cricket, but that would be one-day cricket in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. This has robbed him of the opportunity to get into the groove of the longer format and the selectors have risked breaking his rhythm.

With the opportunity of naming three squads, the selectors have tried to expand the pool of players and given a number of youngsters a chance. But despite the larger pool, they have not given an opportunity to some star performers of the season. Players like Abhishek Nayar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul and Shahbaz Nadeem have missed the bus despite leading their respective charts.

Stuart Binny (BPXI) and Jalaj Saxena (ROI) – both all-rounders seem to have come in at the expense of Nayar. Nayar, the Mumbai all-rounder, played a crucial role in his team’s title triumph in the Ranji Trophy, and his record makes a very compelling case compared to that of Binny or Saxena.

Player M Runs Btg Avg 100s 50s Wkts Bowl Avg
Abhishek Nayar 11 966 96.60 3 8 19 22.89
Stuart Binny 9 612 47.07 1 4 19 41.89
Jalaj Saxena 8 769 69.90 2 5 10 51.00

Nayar’s superiority in this table is very evident and the fact that he doesn’t find a place in any of the three sides is shocking to say the least. Saxena may have come in because he has been picked for India A in the past, but to exclude Nayar is pretty unfair. He certainly deserved a spot ahead of Binny – who is the son national selector Roger Binny.

Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul and Shahbaz Nadeem are amongst the top five wicket-takers this season and yet they do not find a spot in any of the sides. Instead, the likes of Abhimanyu Mithun (ROI), Sarabjeet Ladda (BPXI) and Harbhajan Singh (ROI) have made it through.

Here are the statistics:

Player M Wkts Avg 5WI 10WM Inngs Best Match Best
Siddharth Kaul 9 44 23.79 2 0 6-63 8-81
Shahbaz Nadeem 9 42 25.97 2 0 6-54 9-104
Sandeep Sharma 9 41 19.41 3 1 7-25 10-82
Abhimanyu Mithun 6 20 32.70 1 0 6-36 9-158
Harbhajan Singh 5 16 32.25 0 0 4-60 6-162
Sarabjeet Ladda 3 12 34.50 0 0 4-112 4-118

Harbhajan played one Test against England and didn’t have much of an impact. His returns in the Ranji Trophy haven’t been good either. He may have been picked considering his past record against Australia – particularly at home. However, his Punjab teammate Sarabjeet Ladda has done absolutely nothing of note to make it into this side. The leading spinner this season, Nadeem has missed out and someone who played only three games gets in.

Some players such as Abhinav Mukund (BPXI) and Ashok Menaria (India A) seem to have been picked on promise more than anything else. But, they have had very ordinary seasons and a player who has done better has every right to feel hard done by. What is more surprising is that Mukund has been appointed captain of BPXI.

Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (ROI) is on a comeback trail and one can say that his selection is a good move. He can be an asset in the longer format and these games would help him get into rhythm. The selectors seem to have learnt from the past – where an India fast-bowler returning from injury was often left high and dry. Another good selection is that of Jiwanjot Singh (India A), the Punjab opener. In his first season, he leads the run-charts and it is a phenomenal achievement that has been rewarded.

While there may be a few positives, the negatives are overwhelming and cast a shadow over the whole announcement. One doesn’t know when sanity will creep into Indian cricket. The hopeful will hold on to every last bit even as such instances continue to shock the world.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)

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