CHENNAI: When Vijay Bharadwaj made Test debut against New Zealand in October 1999, Karnataka had sent another player to the national side. The State had produced lots of Test players but the ratio was getting ridiculous even by their standards. In fact, that XI had six players (Rahul Dravid, Bharadwaj, Sunil Joshi, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad) from Karnataka.
A regression towards the mean was expected but you will never believe what happened next. After five decades of contributing handsomely, not a single player from Karnataka debuted in a Test XI from November 1999 to July 2010 (Abhimanyu Mithun versus Sri Lanka). Since then, though, it has changed. Again. When Karun Nair was presented his cap at Mohali against England, he became the fifth from Karnataka (Mithun, KL Rahul, Stuart Binny and Vinay Kumar being the others) to make his debut in six-and-a-half years. Five debutants in 1954 days after zero in 3899 days!
No other State has contributed more than three (refer table) since January 1, 2010, and when this fact is relayed to J Arun Kumar, Karnataka’s coach, he manages a grin before trying to explain why there has been an upturn in fortunes. “It always helps if you win tournaments,” the 42-year-old, who is here for the zonal Twenty20 tournament, says to Express.
“Given we have won two Ranji Trophies this decade, the players have had many opportunities to showcase their talent in high-pressure games. Televised games in front of national selectors... it makes a big difference.” He has a point. After winning three titles in four years (which coincided with the last great transport of players from the State to the country) between 1995-96 and 98-99, a lean period followed. They made no final from then till the 2009-10 season.
Vinay, who has been captain of the team for much of the last five years, has an interesting posit on the latest batch to play for the national team. “We were lucky in the sense that we grew up seeing the likes of Kumble, Dravid train,” he says. “Given that they were world beaters, you tend to absorb their methods and try to put them in practice. If you get their work ethic and discipline, you go to the next level. Take the likes of KL Rahul and Karun Nair for example.”
It’s obvious that the likes of Dravid and Kumble have become totems for the younger lot. “With Dravid being the India A (and Under-19) coach, many players have gone there. And he’s a very fair judge of talent. The advice they have got from both Kumble and him was immense for their development,” Arun says.
Of course, there is only so much the guardians can do. They can teach and guide but the performance has to come from the individuals themselves.
For Karnataka, that’s not been a problem the last half-a-dozen years.