When the quarterfinals of the Ranji Trophy get underway,none of the top three wicket-takers this season will be in action. Among batsmen,only four of the top ten run-getters of the season will feature in the knock-outs. While this will some what take away from the excitement,there is also a more sobering undertone to the developement.
Some of the performers of the season Rishi Dhawan’s 49 wickets for Himachal Pradesh and Saurabh Tiwaris 854 runs in 14 innings for Jharkhand are likely to remain only on the statistics sheets come the end of the season. Majority of the players mentioned will fit the bill of someone who will do well at the Ranji level for seasons to come but will not harbour too much of a hope of playing for the national side. Dhawan,who is likely to finish as the highest wicket-taker in this edition,has been selected just once for the India A side. Dhawan pitched in with the bat too (435 runs this season with five half-centuries),but that wasnt enough for Himachal,who have not made the quarters for five straight years. Last season,Dhawan picked up 41 wickets and scored 551 runs but failed to make even the India A side. In fact,Dhawan hasnt even made the Challenger sides. In comparison,Stuart Binny,picked for the Indian ODI team to New Zealand,has an aggregate of 321 runs in nine innings and 11 wickets at 37.18 in 11 innings.
Dhawan’s coach at Himachal,former Punjab batsman,Rajdeep Kalsi says that the teams inability to make the knockouts often holds back Dhawan from being noticed,with critics saying that the big numbers were earned playing weaker teams. The other figure that always finds a mention in this debate is Rajasthan’s Pankaj Singh. The 28-year-old has 39 wickets this season to add to the 35 and 29 he picked up in the last two. His ability to extract bounce and bowl well on even dead surfaces was instrumental in Rajasthan’s back-to-back triumphs a few years back. Still,Pankaj Singh has played just one ODI for India,back in 2010 against Sri Lanka. Speaking about batsman,Delhi’s Unmukt Chand,despite two lack-luster seasons seems to be a certainty for India A,while his former U-19 India teammate Hanuma Vihari of Hyderabad,who is fifth on the highest run-getters list with 841 runs at 93.44 will probably not have it that easy. At least as long as a player’s visiblity depends on the performance of his team.
Chinmay is a senior correspondent based in Pune