Prasad has also spoken to the Karnataka player to give him a “fair picture” of where he stands.
Chief selector M.S.K. Prasad has said that Mayank Agarwal, this season’s outstanding batsman, is “in the queue” for a place in the India side. Prasad has also spoken to the Karnataka player to give him a “fair picture” of where he stands.
Prasad’s nice words followed by a nice gesture make for a nice procedure that has not always been prevalent in Indian cricket, but could hardly have mollified Agarwal who has scored a whopping 2,141 runs across different formats as yet in an extraordinary streak of form.
This includes five centuries in the Ranji Trophy, three 50-plus scores in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy and three hundreds and four fifties in in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, so Agarwal’s penchant for big scores as well as consistency are clearly established.
The run tally will certainly see an increase when he plays at least two matches in the Deodhar Trophy (50 overs) and the Irani Trophy (four-day, first class) for Rest of India against the Ranji Trophy winners this month.
This is also the period when the India team will be in Sri Lanka for a T20 tri-series and Agarwal would not be human for believing that he had been hard done by: that he deserved to be on the plane to the Emerald Isles next week instead of being left behind.
Abundance of talent has put the national selectors in a piquant situation whenever a cricket team has had to be chosen in recent years. There are several claimants for most positions, and the task of the selectors becomes unenviable.
But that is also what makes the job so much more challenging. It calls into play a deep understanding the team’s requirements and combination as also current form of players not already in the squad, their psychology and how to maximise their potential.
The selectors did this splendidly with some players in the past couple of seasons. The rise of Jasprit Bumrah on the tour of South Africa — in all formats — and the success of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav vindicated the trust reposed in them.
All these players were not without ‘risk’ when selected, but have come along so superbly that they’ve replaced established stalwarts. This has infused serious competition for places which has only made Indian cricket richer.
On the face of it, the selectors have stuck to a plan, picking players who were already ‘in queue’, and maintaining a balance which gives captain Rohit Sharma and coach Ravi Shastri quite a few permutations and combinations to win the tournament.
My argument, however, goes beyond the obvious. Agarwal’s case was worthy of deeper scrutiny. The sheer weight of runs that he has brought to the table demanded a more holistic appraisal rather than just being on this brief tour.
When a player hits such a purple patch, he is screaming for attention. If this is denied to him at the opportune time, he can end up frustrated, lose focus or enthusiasm for the game, believing that his best is not good enough.
At 27, Agarwal is not a spring chicken. He’s been around for five seasons, and was caught in the vicissitudes of form and fortune that can befall sportspersons before breaking free of shackles, of technique and mind, this season.
On sheer weight of runs, it should have been a no-brainer to pencil in Agarwal’s name, what with several regulars being rested. If the selectors, captain and coach were intent on the players they chose, the squad could have been increased to 16 members.
At very low cost, this would have served Agarwal well to get a ‘feel’ of being part of the national team in an international tournament even if he didn’t get a game here. There are bigger assignments ahead for which he may be needed.
Meanwhile, Steve Waugh (a master at sledging in his playing days) criticising Virat Kohli of being ‘over the top’ on the field reminds me of a classic line from sports writer Simon Barnes in The Times (London) some years back.
“The traditional dress code of the Australian cricketer,” wrote Barnes, “is the baggy green cap on the head and the chip on the shoulder. Both are ritualistically observed.”