Chetan Sharma, the chairman of India’s senior men’s cricket team selection committee, on Saturday emphasised on the importance of playing the Ranji Trophy in order to ascertain the match-readiness of a cricketer.
In the virtual press announcement of the Test squad for the series against Sri Lanka, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha and Ishant Sharma were left out from the 18-member party.
Asked on why Saha was left out of the squad with Andhra keeper KS Bharat replacing him, Sharma said, “I can’t tell you on what grounds he has been dropped. That is for the selectors only. All I can tell you is that he was told before and was asked to play the Ranji trophy, which is the ladder for playing international cricket. What we discussed between ourselves (committee members); we can’t tell you that.”
Sharma further remarked, “The CAB, state cricket association can tell you why because that isn’t my jurisdiction. This selection committee believes that unless you are unfit, under load management or busy with international cricket, you should play in domestic cricket. That is very important. How will we know if you are match-ready?”
“If one doesn’t want to play, then the selection committee won’t interfere in state matters. You need to ask Hardik why he isn’t playing in the Ranji Trophy. We are looking at the ones who are playing the Ranji Trophy and we get happy seeing the performers play in the Ranji Trophy.”
Sharma again reiterated that the doors of the Test side aren’t closed when one features in Ranji Trophy. Saha had made himself unavailable for Bengal in the ongoing Ranji Trophy due to personal reasons. “I spoke to all of them that they have to play the Ranji Trophy, which is very important as we also want to know how are you faring after not playing much for so long. Ranji Trophy is the ladder to international cricket and that was the point. The thinking we had or the discussions we had; I don’t think I can discuss with you.”
“We don’t give much importance to age but at one point, the selectors start to think when you get some youngsters outside and want to give them a chance. That is why the selection committee said that you won’t be considered for two matches. The doors are open for you. If you haven’t played for long, how will we see the skills of you? This is why playing Ranji Trophy gets important for all and I am consistently emphasising on that.”
Sharma then got agitated when a correspondent questioned Pandya’s absence from cricket after the men’s T20 World Cup, especially from the Ranji Trophy. “If you have his number, speak to him. You are not part of the selection committee, so you can’t decide. Support him. Don’t raise issues. The kid has done so much for the country. One has to support him.”
“Hardik is a very important part of the Indian team. After the injuries, we can say that till the time he’s hundred per cent fit and we get it that he’s fit to go, can bowl and has match fitness, we will consider him immediately.”