Karnataka draws Test blank after two decades

State players have been victims of inconsistent selection policies

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company take on New Zealand in the opening match of the two-Test series in Hyderabad from August 23, it will also be the first instance in over two decades that there won’t be any cricketer from Karnataka in an Indian Test squad.

Since Anil Kumble made his Test debut against England in Manchester on August 9, 1990, Karnataka have had at least one player from their stable in the squad. There has been just one instance in the last 22 years when there was no player from the State in the playing XI. Rahul Dravid had been ruled out for the two-Test series against South Africa in 2010 after he had sustained a fracture on his jaw in the series against Bangladesh, but pacer Abhimanyu Mithun was there in the 16-member side.   

With Dravid calling time on his career in March this year following India’s whitewash by Australia in the four-Test series Down Under, it has also effectively put an end to Karnataka’s long representation, at least for the time being. In fact, only between March 1987 (when Roger Binny played his last Test against Pakistan in Bangalore) and August 1990 (when Kumble debuted), has there been no player from the State in an Indian Test side since legendary EAS Prasanna cut his teeth in Test cricket in 1962.

Disappointing as it may appear for a State that once used to have five-six players in the team, it’s hardly the reflection of talent that is available in Karnataka. The Kris Srikkanth-led selection committee, whose term has come to an end, has made some baffling selections during its tenure and Karnataka players have had to face the brunt of it on a number of occasions.

While Rohit Sharma seems to have the luxury of longer run that others don’t seem enjoy, someone like Harbhajan Singh doesn’t have to perform to reclaim his lost place. On what basis was Piyush Chawla included in both the Test and T20 squads? And with due respect to Yuvraj Singh’s credentials, did he merit a place in the side when he is yet to prove his match fitness? Why doesn’t someone like R Vinay Kumar get the same benefit of doubt?

Take the case of Mithun who for some strange reason wasn’t never the preferred choice of the outgoing panel. Agreed, the Bangalorean, with nine wickets at an average of over 50, hasn’t set the turf on fire in the four Tests he has played but he was the one bowler the selectors ought to have invested in more. In his debut series in Sri Lanka, the 22-year-old earned high praises for bowling his heart out on unresponsive pitches. He was, however, shockingly axed for the next series in South Africa where conditions would have suited him better. Instead, Jaidev Unadkat was handed the cap based on his performances against ‘A’ teams on the tour to England! The Saurashtra bowler was an embarrassment in the first Test.

On his return as a cover during the series against the West Indies in the Caribbean last year, Mithun was decent in the drawn second Test at Bridgetown, but since Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth were making comebacks in England he was ignored again. The right-arm pacer then went as a replacement for the Australia series but sat out all the four matches. With Ishant Sharma now declared fit, once again there is no spot for Mithun. While Ishant is a talented bowler, the faith reposed in him hasn’t exactly produced expected results. Mithun surely deserved at least half the confidence the selectors have shown in the Delhi bowler.

Robin Uthappa is another victim of inconsistency in selections. The right-hander was part of the squad that travelled to South Africa for the lone T20 match but he doesn’t figure for the T20s against New Zealand and for the World T20. While Rohit continues to find favour despite repeated failures, Uthappa somehow hasn’t been so lucky, notwithstanding the absence of an extra wicketkeeper in the side. If the Kodava boy’s performance in the IPL was average, Harbhajan Singh’s was worse.
Perhaps, some cricketers are more equal than others.

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