“You are giving an award but there is no reward. If I don’t get an answer from the BCCI about why I haven’t got even an India A call in the last four years, then what’s the point of giving me awards for the last four years. This only seems more like an insult to me then. I’m depressed.”
Jalaj Saxena is 31 and he’s been around the Indian cricket circuit for over a dozen years now. He’s not the first player in cricket history to feel hard done by the selectors. And he won’t be the last. But his lament seems justified.
Saxena, an off-spinning all-rounder originally from Madhya Pradesh, was the highest wicket-taker with 49 scalps in the Ranji Trophy last year having shifted base to Kerala. And as a result he’s all set to pick up the Madhavrao Scindia Award for the 2017-18 season at the BCCI Awards to be held in Bangalore next week. He’s also in line to receive the Lala Amarnath Award for best all-rounder in the Ranji Trophy for the third time in the last four years.
It’s also been a phase of his career where the national selectors seem to have shut the door tight on his prospects of taking a step up to the next level. He’s failed to get a call-up for the India A squad and Saxena is yet to feature in an Irani Trophy match. Ironically, Saxena had a run for India A and was routinely on the fringes of the national team for a brief period prior to his transformation into becoming one of the most consistent performers in Indian domestic cricket.
“Everyone asks me the BCCI has been giving you an award every year for the last four years but you still don’t seem good enough to play at a higher level. I feel humiliated,” says Saxena.
He even reveals having called up one of the selectors after the umpteenth snub for the Irani Trophy earlier this year—one of the lowest points in his career he reckons—only for his call not to be answered. “Maybe he didn’t have my number. I’m the highest wicket taker and have been performing consistently for past many years now. I just wanted to know the reason for not being picked for India A and Irani Trophy,” he adds.
Eventually he was informed, he claims, that a number of players had already cemented their place in the India A team.
Saxena last played for India A in 2013 for a series against New Zealand A in Visakhapatnam. He returned a six-wicket haul in the first of two four-day matches and that was it. A year prior to that he was touring the Caribbean with a team led by Rohit Sharma. Saxena doesn’t buy into the selectors’ theory over his non-selection and insists that despite the BCCI harping on about performances in domestic cricket being a major criteria for national selection, eventually it all boiled down to what a player does in the IPL. Though Saxena has been part of the Mumbai Indians roster in the past, he’s never played an IPL match and wasn’t picked during this year’s auction.
“It looks like the IPL is paramount for selection. The criteria can’t be different for different players. I was not picked for IPL, is it my mistake? You tell me what shall I do?”says Saxena.
Considering his run over the last four years—he’s snared 137 wickets at 24.5—he even reveals to have built up hopes of a potential Test cap. He’s quick to reveal that his score at the yo yo test conducted by the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) was an impressive 17.1. “This is injustice. The least they can do is tell me once and for all that they won’t pick me. I have been waiting to hear from them one way or the other for four years,” he adds.