Team for SL: Gaikwad, Unadkat cases show IPL performance counts more


Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat is only 29 and already deemed over-the-hill after he failed to find a spot in the national squad for next month’s white-ball series in Sri Lanka after having missed the bus to England last month for India’s Test tour.

Unadkat’s domestic performances over the last couple of years, it seems, held no weight as his unspectacular performance in Indian Premier League (IPL) kept him out. He picked four wickets each in IPL 2020 (seven games) and IPL 2021 (four games).

In the absence of injured T Natarajan and with no other left-arm pacer in sight, Unadkat who took 67 wickets in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season and eight wickets in six Vijay Hazare Trophy matches this year at an economy rate of 5.88, was a strong contender to make it to one of the two India squads.

However, Gujarat’s 23-year-old pacer Arzan Nagwaswalla and another 23-year-old Chetan Sakariya, who is Unadkat’s Saurashtra teammate, were picked ahead of him.

Nagwaswalla, who picked 41 wickets in eight matches in the 2019-20 Ranji season and with 19 scalps was the second highest wicket-taker in this year’s Vijay Hazare One-dayers, was taken as a standby bowler to England.

Sakariya, who was sixth highest wicket-taker in Syed Mushtaq Ali national T20s this year with 12 wickets and 4.9 economy rate, is in the Shikhar Dhawan-led squad that will play three ODIs and three T20Is against Sri Lanka, from July 13 to 25.

While Nagwaswalla doesn’t have an IPL contract, Sakariya had a handsome Rs.1.2 crore contract with Rajasthan Royals, for which he picked seven wickets in seven games.

Unadkat, who had expressed displeasure earlier on being ignored for England and had hoped he would get a chance to tour Sri Lanka, is not the only one disappointed.

Former Saurashtra batsman Sheldon Jackson, who now represents Puducherry, tweeted a broken heart emoticon after the team was announced. Jackson had been scoring consistently and piled up over 800 runs in Ranji Trophy in 2019-20 during his old team, Saurashtra’s victorious campaign. This year, in limited-overs cricket, he has scored runs but not consistently and that probably went against him.

While the top two run-getters in this year’s Vijay Hazare One-dayers, Prithvi Shaw and Devdutt Padikkal, have found place in the squad for Sri Lanka, the No.3 on the list, Ravikumar Samarth, with 613 runs at an average of 122.6 is not there. Uttar Pradesh pacer Shivam Sharma, the top wicket-taker in the same tournament with 21 in eight matches and two fifers, hasn’t got a place too.

Haryana pace bowler Harshal Patel, who took a fifer in the suspended IPL 2021, took 52 wickets in nine Ranji matches in 2019-20, but he too has been ignored.

None of the top 13 scorers in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s this year have found place in the white-ball squad to Sri Lanka, including Jackson who scored 242 in five matches. Out of top five wicket-takers in the national T20 tournament, only Avesh Khan has made it to England.

Ruturaj Gaikwad, the Chennai Super Kings opener, who scored three fifties in six IPL 2020 matches and two fifties in seven IPL 2021 matches, has been included only on the basis of his IPL performance. His returns in Vijay Hazare One-day Trophy this year were low with 182 runs in five matches. His performance in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s was even poorer — 94 runs in five matches at an average of 18.8.

Former selector MSK Prasad, however, is satisfied with the team. He says that apart from Sakariya, not one selection is surprising.

“These players have been part of the India A team for the last two-three years and they have been outstanding in last two editions of the IPL. I don’t see any surprise other than Sakariya. But Sakariya also had a decent IPL and put up good domestic performances and that is probably what prompted selectors to pick him,” Prasad told IANS.

Some of the players automatically selected themselves, thanks to their performance in IPL. Shaw, Padikkal — both of whom did well in IPL as well as domestic limited-overs cricket — Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav, who performed well in IPL 2020, and Nitish Rana.

Sanju Samson’s selection though comes on the back of failures on the tour of Australia as well as below par showings in Vijay Hazare One-dayers (batting average of 30.25) and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s (average of 25.6).

In IPL 2021, Samson scored a century in his team’s opener but failed to get a fifty after that. He has probably made the cut because he is a wicketkeeper and also because he managed three back-to-back 40s for Rajasthan Royals in the last three matches.

A source aware of the reasoning behind selectors’ decision told IANS: “Domestic cricket alone doesn’t count. The selectors have to pick with an eye on the T20 World Cup and on future. They picked players who they think will either play in T20 World like Dhawan and Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] or those who they think will be assets for future like Sakariya. The only team Unadkat could have made to was the Test squad. But do you think there is space there? No.”

Asked if the IPL gets weightage, the source responded: “It does get weightage as much as other domestic performances but you also have to see who the players perform against. There are so many international class players in IPL.”