Who deserves national colours?

Shahbaz Nadeem has been one of the young Indians to grab headlines this IPL

This edition of the IPL, like all the previous seasons, has brought many lesser-known domestic cricketers to the fore. While Harmeet Singh produced a match-winning final over against Kolkata Knight Riders, Shahbaz Nadeem cleaned up both Levi and Jacobs against Mumbai Indians. Rajat Bhatia too continues to bowl miserly, even as many others catch the eye. These unknown commodities of Indian cricket, who one wouldn’t have heard of otherwise, have been rightfully hogging the limelight. Besides bringing money into the pockets of many domestic cricketers, the IPL also brings recognition—both being scarce to an average first-class player.

One successful season in the IPL justifies their years of toil in inhospitable conditions.
While it’s convenient to get carried away with the ones who are doing well in the IPL, it will be grave injustice to forget the top performers of the domestic season. It’s unbelievable that the top three run-scorers—Robin Bist, Vineet Saxena and Abhinav Mukund, of the recently concluded domestic season haven’t played a single game of the IPL this season. In fact, Vineet Saxena doesn’t even have an IPL contract because his style of play may help him score a double century in the Ranji finals but would never impress an IPL franchise. I’m not suggesting that the top performers of the first-class season should automatically get an IPL deal. Yet, it’ll be utterly unfair to disregard their contribution just because they aren’t a part of the T20 extravaganza.
IPL is a brilliant platform but only for players with a certain kind of skill-set. Some would argue that good players, in this day and age, should be able to adapt to different formats. Point taken. Ajinkaya Rahane is a prime example of someone who churned out superlative performances in the longer format of the domestic structure and also successfully adapted to the demands of the shortest format.
But is it really fair to crucify someone if he’s suited for only one format? Specialization is the way forward. After all, we’re getting to a stage when we’d be expected to pick different sides for different formats. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that it’s imperative to reward players who have the talent and the temperament to succeed in the longer format but aren’t cut out to play T20. It would be extremely unfortunate if the likes of Pujara, Mukund, Saxena etc. compromise their prevailing skill-sets to suit the demands of T20 cricket, for some might make it and the rest will fall by the wayside.
More than the young batsmen, I’m worried about young spinners in the country. In any case, I haven’t encountered many in last few domestic seasons who are willing to flight and turn the ball off the surface. If those who do also start bowling darts then the future of spin in India is bleak.
It’s absolutely fine for the fans and the media to go over the top in praising IPL success stories. But it is imperative for the selectors to revisit the domestic season while picking the Indian team.

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