The national cricket selectors have not shut the door on Test batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara and have told them to regain their form by playing in Ranji Trophy.
The senior duo, along with pacer Ishant Sharma and wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha, on Saturday, were excluded from the squad for the Test series against Sri Lanka. Chief Selector Chetan Sharma, in a virtual press conference, said the senior quartet were spoken to ‘immediately’ after India lost the Test series to South Africa 2-1.
“We have told them that we will not consider them for two Test matches. In between, the people who have been given chances, we will see how they are going to do. We are nobody to close doors on anybody. This is cricket, where you make runs or pick wickets and play for the country, that’s the most important aspect,” said Sharma.
“Till then, I have requested all four of them, even Ishant Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha, to play Ranji Trophy, which is very important as selectors are taking Ranji Trophy seriously, especially with it happening after so long. We selectors are at every venue in the Ranji Trophy and seeing how the players are going about. We spoke to all four of them immediately after the South Africa tour and told them, ‘We will not pick you for the two Tests and you go play in Ranji Trophy’,” added Sharma.
Both Rahane and Pujara had been enduring a lean patch of form in Test cricket. In the series against South Africa, Rahane and Pujara had just one fifty in six innings while they last reached the century mark in Tests in December 2020 and January 2019 respectively. In the first round of the Ranji Trophy, Rahane made 129 while Pujara bagged a four-ball duck.
“The selection committee came to the decision after thinking for long and had spoken to both (Rahane and Pujara) of them. We had told them that we will not consider them for two Test matches against Sri Lanka. The doors are absolutely open for them and (we) told them to go and play in the Ranji Trophy. Just for the two-Test matches, selectors decided to give chance to other cricketers,” explained Sharma.
Sharma stated that the door is not closed on either Rahane or Pujara and they can return to the squad if they perform well in the Ranji Trophy. “Why not? They have played and served the county for so long. Ajinkya got a hundred yesterday (129) in playing a match against Saurashtra. It’s like a graph, like ups and downs in life. It becomes very important for the selectors to handle the boys who are coming out of a rough phase.”
“You cannot ignore those who have served the country for so long. The biggest point to them was, ‘we are giving you rest for two matches and you play Ranji Trophy’. A cricketer is told to go back to the basics, which is domestic cricket to rectify their mistakes. Who wouldn’t be happy if they come back?”
Sharma further felt that not being in the hustle and bustle of Test cricket could do good for the senior quartet, especially Rahane. “As a selector, there is nothing satisfying. When one gets a hundred, selectors ask for a double hundred. Where Ajinkya Rahane is lacking, it is up to him. For me, Ajinkya Rahane is a big player.”
“The graph goes up and down. When such a situation happens, the thinking of the selection committee is to let them go back to basics. No problem in them scoring runs, gaining confidence and getting their rhythm back and playing again.”