The Irani Trophy has always been considered as a selection trial match. Based on the players' performance in this tournament many have gone on to play for the country.
A few decades ago the match between Mumbai and Rest Of India was much awaited. Later the established stars were either rested by the selectors or weren't keen to play.
The national selection committee did well to pick young players but they dropped Jharkhand's talented batsman Ishank Jaggi on the ground that he was unfit. The BCCI claims that they were informed by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) that Jaggi was unfit and had undergone a knee surgery whereas the Jharkhand Cricket Association secretary said that Jaggi was in fact practicing with the State team. The BCCI's consultant Dr. Anant Joshi has verified his fitness.
While Delhi medium-pacer Pawan Suyal who underwent a knee surgery was selected and later replaced, the fit Jaggi was first selected and then dropped. The Board ought to have spoken to the Jharkhand Cricket Association secretary about Jaggi before dropping him. If he was unfit, why was he selected in the first place? Did the NCA submit medical reports of players who underwent treatment recently?
The NCA is a bit of an embarrassment to the BCCI. They neither have the control over the fitness issues of the contract and fringe players nor have they produced players of international quality. When Rodney Marsh set up the NCA, it was with the clear agenda for producing quality players for the country.
In the first batch Marsh had selected Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammad Kaif and many others who later played for the country. Later the NCA felt the need to have qualified coaches. Speak the same cricket technique language was their rationale. But this rationale has made the NCA focus more on producing coaches than players and it hasn't helped to boost the quality.
The Irani Trophy at Jaipur should be an interesting affair if the pitch is better than what it was the previous time. The squabbling within the Rajasthan Cricket Association had made things difficult for the players but wiser counsel prevailed and the preparatory camp began. Apart from three professionals in Kanitkar, Parida and Aakash Chopra, the players to watch would be fast-bowling sensation Deepak Chahar and left-hand batsman Ashok Menaria.
Like Jaggi the case of Chahar is intriguing. A few months back he was selected for the under-19 camp of the NCA and later not picked for the India under-19 probables because he had completed 19 in August 2011. Could this not have been checked when the boys were selected for the NCA's 40-day camp? All eyes will be on the fast bowlers Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav. A five-day match tests the endurance and skill levels of fast bowlers.
Both these bowlers deserve more opportunities if the selectors are keen to push them into the Indian team. Bowling to Kanitkar, Parida and Chopra will test their skill level.
There are some bright prospects but the need of the hour is to find players who give the old hands of the Indian team a run for their money.