Irani Cup squad: Not quite best of the rest
Manoj Tiwary’s last first-class innings this season came at Indore’s Holkar Stadium against a honest yet unremarkable Madhya Pradesh bowling attack. He made 14 in the second innings before falling to the medium-pace of Puneet Datey. The veteran Bengal right-hander had spent 66 minutes the first time around for a painstaking 8. At the same time, Hanuma Vihari had just completed his third ton for the season, a mammoth 263 for Hyderabad against Himachal Pradesh while Suryakumar Yadav was scoring an enterprising 77 against Karnataka at the Wankhede Stadium.
Vihari finished with 780 runs at 86.66 and finished at No.8 of the run-getters, five spots ahead of Yadav, who made 690 runs at 43.12. Tiwary’s failures, meanwhile, was symptomatic of a season, where he managed 349 runs at 26.84 and he failed to score a ton. Yet, Tiwary will lead Rest of India (ROI), a team that should ideally represent the best domestic perfomers in the country, in the Irani Cup next week. Vihari and Yadav on the other hand will have be to content with warming their living-room couch and wondering about what they did wrong.
The decision to hand the captaincy to Tiwary is symbolic of the many under-performers who have been rewarded with berths ahead of those topping the charts. In fact, only one out of 26 top run-getters — these do not include those from Karnataka the Ranji champions — has been recognized for his prolific run. It probably was difficult to ignore Paras Dogra, who averaged 135.50 in seven matches and made 813 runs with four centuries-joint-most with Dinesh Karthik, who also didn’t make the cut.
The two most consistent openers through the Ranji season, who were not from Karnataka, were Tamil Nadu skipper Abhinav Mukund and Andhra’s Srikar Bharat. But instead, the selectors have gone with Jiwanjot Singh, who made a grand debut two years ago but couldn’t go past 76 in the last four months, only averaging 23.73 in eight matches for Punjab.
“Players who have been seen before were avoided because we wanted to give a chance to newer, younger guys,” said a selector, explaining the rationale behind picking the ROI squad. While that might explain the omission of Mukund and Karthik, it doesn’t explain the inclusion of the tried-and-tested Unmukt Chand-average 37.46-in place of Bharat, who averaged 54.14, made a triple-hundred and also keeps wickets. Shreyas Iyer’s is a similar case. He was the find of the season for Mumbai with 809 attractive runs. He played strokes around the clock, and fits both categories of being young and unseen on the bigger stage that the Irani Cup does provide. Yet he inexplicably misses the bus.
And they also seem to have picked the wrong Baba twin. Aparajith never looked at his best with 553 runs at 29.10 but will bat in the middle-order at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Indrajith in his first proper season finished in the top-10 list with useful lower-order runs —713 at 44.56 — but to no avail.
The bowling unit may not have the same tinge of unfairness. As the Test team’s tearaway, Varun Aaron deserves a go in the season finale, and so does Pragyan Ojha. Shardul Thakur, Rishi Dhawan and Rush Kalaria were among the wickets for their respective state teams, and get a look-in. Spinners Karn Sharma and Kuldeep Yadav surprisingly did not make the cut.
Source:: Indian Express