CHENNAI: By selecting Karun Nair for England on the back of good domestic and A run, and then omitting him for West Indies, India’s selectors seem to have questioned not just the middle-order batsman’s abilities, but their own choice.
Whichever way you look at it, it is hard to not sympathise with Karun. He warmed the bench for the first four Tests against England, only to be overlooked for Hanuma Vihari.
Before the squad for the two Tests against West Indies was named, no one would have expected Karun to be left out. After England, the axe had been hanging over at least a couple of players. The team management had been hinting at looking ahead to Australia by omitting those who haven’t performed overseas.
Midway through the England tour, it fell on Murali Vijay, who had been a pale shadow of himself in recent times. It’s again fallen on Shikhar Dhawan, as expected. After the year-long merry-go-round between these two and KL Rahul, India have let go of not one, but two. Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal will soon try and understand how this game of musical chairs plays out.
But, what about Karun? Having made it to the squad after a year, the door has been slammed on him again. The worst part is that he doesn’t know why. “We (Karun, selectors and the management) haven’t had any conversations. Nothing. It’s difficult, but I haven’t gone and asked anything,” he told Cricbuzz.
That in itself is a surprise. For selection committee chairman MSK Prasad has time and again pointed out that communication between selectors and players is clear. So much so that the latter know where they are in the pecking order. India A players have frequently revealed that selectors ask them to work on specific areas to fill up a hole in the national squad. Rishabh Pant and Vihari are two beneficiaries.
But Karun’s episode isn’t a one-off occurrence, nor can it be blamed on selectors alone. A few calls have been made where the team management hasn’t appeared to be on the same page as selectors. When Agarwal made a strong case for himself over the last domestic season, the selectors threw up his name for South Africa and England. But they received contrasting signals from the team management. That instance falls in line with Karun’s narrative of being ignored.
In the past, Prasad has given cushion to a few players when they needed it the most. By backing Wriddhiman Saha as the first-choice wicketkeeper when Parthiv Patel — his replacement — was making runs, they helped the former concentrate on rehabilitation rather than worry about his place. When the team management wanted Yuzvendra Chahal for South Africa, he backed R Ashwin and R Jadeja.
Karun finds himself in unfamiliar territory. In the time he has spent on the bench, he could have easily been released for India A series at home. He would have hoped to cash in against West Indies and make a strong case for Australia. But Karun will now join Karnataka, wondering when he will hear from selectors or team management next.