The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on January 16, 2020, announced the list of its centrally contracted players of the Indian Men’s cricket team for the upcoming season October 2019-September 2020.
There were some new names in the list like Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini, and Washington Sundar included in the list, some of the names were also excluded, who failed to perform admirably in the previous calendar year. 27 players were divided into four categories, with Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma included in the topmost A+ Category which nets them a sum of INR 7 crore.
The biggest news coming out from the announcements made by the BCCI when they announced the annual contracts list for 2019-2020 was the exclusion of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The wicketkeeper-batsman has made himself unavailable for most of the series India featured in post the World Cup. Dropping him completely from the contracts list was a very harsh step that the selectors took.
The selectors clearly saw that and also keeping in mind the future assignments and what MS Dhoni could probably bring to the table now with him ageing and out of playing touch, they have decided to move on. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road, for MSD a solid IPL 2020 for CSK could well see the revered MSD return to Indian colours for the World T20 in Australia.
MS Dhoni had retired from Test cricket in December 2014 after playing 90 matches and had stepped down as captain of India’s limited-overs formats teams in January 2017. Dhoni was part of Grade A in the BCCI’s central contracts list last year but after he had made himself unavailable since the World Cup, he was left out by BCCI from the 27-member list for the period from October 2019 to September 2020. Dinesh Karthik, Khaleel Ahmed and Ambati Rayudu are the other players to lose out on their central contracts.
Here we look at five players who got more than they deserved as far as contracts awarded to them:
1. Shikhar Dhawan
Shikhar ‘Gabbar’ Dhawan has been awarded a Grade A contract by the BCCI for 2020. Looking at his performances across formats in the past year or so, that’s a step too much one gets the feeling. The left-hander has been very inconsistent and has struggled with poor form too. He just came out of an injury layoff and has had a decent start against Australia in the first ODI at Mumbai that India lost by ten wickets.
In 18 ODIs in 2019, Dhawan has managed to score a total of 583 runs at an average of 36.44. He has hit two centuries and two fifties in this period but his strike-rate which has been much higher than 100 always has dipped to 93. Lack of consistency and injury breaks haven’t helped the flamboyant left-handed opening batsman.
Someone who has been in and around the Test team has not played a single game in 2019. His technical deficiencies seem to have caught up with him. The likes of Mayank Aggarwal, Rohit Sharma and even Prithvi Shaw have gone up the pecking order in comparison to Dhawan.
The left-hander who has had an average year in 2019 overall with him not playing Test cricket should have been awarded a Grade B contract but got lucky as BCCI kept him in the Grade A list of players.
2. Rishabh Pant
Exciting, exhilarating, fantastic- these are some of the adjectives that can be attributed to Rishabh Pant when he’s on song. But that’s not been the case with him when he’s playing for India. The baggage of being MSD’s replacement seems to have severely hampered his performances as a wicket-keeper and batsman across formats.
His shot selection and lack of match awareness is what frustrates everyone and they start wondering why the likes of Dinesh Karthik, Sanju Samson or an Ishan Kishan don’t get a look in instead of Pant.
The Delhi Capitals batsman has just managed to represent his country in four games in Test Cricket in 2019. He has managed to score a total of 217 runs including a scintillating 159. However, weaknesses in his batting and wicket-keeping skills are evident by his performances lately.
A strike rate of 102.9 in ODIs in 2019 and a shade over 120 in T20Is in the same period speak for themselves. He has a dot percentage of 50.4 per cent in ODIs and 39 per cent for India in LOIs in the past one year. Keeping all these factors in mind, Pant should consider himself extremely lucky to get a Grade A contract and not being relegated to Grade B or C. He just managed to hold on to the Grade A contract mainly owing to the immense promise he can deliver on.
If his performances in LOIs don’t improve in 2020, he would find himself out of contention for the World T20 in Australia. Also, he finds himself in a very lucky situation with MSD either injured or making himself unavailable for selection post the World Cup in England, thus allowing Pant to get continuous opportunities across formats especially in LOIs.
3. KL Rahul
“The next big thing in Indian cricket, the player with a lot of potential”- We’ve been hearing such things about KL Rahul since last year and a half. Indeed he is a player with a sound batting technique and has a lot of potential in him but is still not able to cement his position in the team completely.
Rahul indeed has support from both the captain and the coach as they know that he is a pedigree player and needs to be nurtured and taken care of. The only question remains that how long will his run in the team be extended? He has been in the list of the few batsmen who have international centuries to their name in all the three formats. Achieving this feat in such a short span of time speaks a lot about his potential, but even these records are next to nothing if the performance doesn’t come on a consistent basis.
Considering the fact that KL is no longer actively involved in the scheme of things as far as Test cricket is concerned and with him not getting a consistent, long run in ODIs its indeed surprising to see the swashbuckling batsman get a Grade A contract. Only in T20Is, he has shown sparks of his actual potential over a decent period of time.
With Rishabh Pant’s stocks falling rapidly and with the middle order extremely cramped for India in T20Is, KL Rahul’s added advantage of being a wicket-keeper/ batsman holds him in good stead. That allows him to get a long run and also frees up one slot in the playing XI. If he can manage to do that more often in the near future, he can justify his high grade and pay offered by BCCI.
4. Shardul Thakur
It’s not easy being a fast bowler trying to break into the Indian team these days—the competition is intense. With many skilful and experienced pacers in the set-up, where does Shardul Thakur fit in?
The Mumbai bowler’s ability to handle his nerves shines through in the high-pressure white-ball format. It proved vital in India’s final international of 2019, against West Indies, where he played a cameo to power the team home in Cuttack. It is this quality that endears him to his captains, impressing MS Dhoni first and now Virat Kohli. They have more effective bowlers at their disposal but Thakur’s captains are aware that when the fight reaches the trenches, Thakur will be up for it.
He is mainly an injury backup for frontline options like Deepak Chahar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in T20Is and going by his lacklustre ODI returns, he doesn’t deserve to be given a continued run in ODI’s when the main seamers are out injured.
He is included in the team to face off against in a series where India lost convincingly in the first ODI, but he must consider himself very lucky to play for India in 2019- he can thank other fast bowlers for getting injured to allow him to play for India last year. So, BCCI allotting him a player’s contract itself says how less the likes of Navdeep Saini or Bhuvi have played for India in LOIs last year, as Thakur hasn’t exactly earned his Grade C contract.
5. Kedar Jadhav
A brilliant cricketer with a fantastic domestic record who has got a chance in the international arena at a relatively later stage in his career, Kedar Jadhav has been roped in to play a finisher’s role. Though Jadhav has not done much wrong and got very few opportunities to bat, the jury is still out on him. The main problem with him is that there is confusion about his role as he might be better suited to batting higher up the order.
The other problem is whether India can afford to play a pure batsman at No.6 who just could slip in a few overs because most teams prefer an all-rounder in that position. There is a strong belief that Jadhav is playing a stop-gap role at the moment but he might not be the best option in the long run. Once Hardik Pandya gets fit, Jadhav won’t feature in India’s plans in LOIs.
It’s a matter of luck for Jadhav to be awarded a player’s contract by the BCCI, they have offered him a Grade C contract. KJ is neither a short-term nor is he a long-term solution. India must move on from these quick fix players and invest in more young talent. As there is enough talent waiting to get into the Indian team, it’s about time ageing players who don’t have much to offer move on or are asked to move on.
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