It was brutal for Sarfaraz Khan when the squad was announced recently by the BCCI for the upcoming Border Gavaskar series between India and Australia. Both teams will be playing a four-match series, and not seeing Sarfaraz was a shock for the entire cricket fraternity. One major question which lies in front of us and Sarfaraz himself is what more a player can do rather than score a truckload of runs in domestic cricket. You have a player who, year after year, has broken the shackles of scoring heavily in red-ball cricket, and he once again was ignored by the Indian team selectors.
Also, the team management should be held responsible here for the favouritism that is going on. One wonders how can someone like Suryakumar Yadav be in the team. Just because he has been sensational in the 20-over format, this doesn’t give selectors and management the right to draft him in. They may argue that he can accelerate if given a chance in crucial moments, but that’s not how things should pan out. You have the Ranji, a premier domestic competition as far as First-Class cricket is concerned, and then you disrespect the same.
In this scenario, the BCCI should abolish Ranji and let players play 20-over formats or List A cricket to get into the side. Other nations like England and Australia look up to the County and Sheffield Shield for harnessing talent in FC cricket and giving players a chance in the senior side based on performance. And here we are seeing several top Ranji players not being considered. And a major example of this is Sarfaraz.
A few people in the media have gone head over heels regarding Suryakumar, and some have questioned Sarfaraz’s fitness and performance in the IPL. Sarfaraz may be healthier, but he has passed every Yo-Yo test, and his fitness is as good as others. And IPL can never be considered a benchmark for red-ball cricket. Ranji is the benchmark, and returns in the same should pave the way for players and help them dream.
A bizarre selection process has hurt players
When someone keeps performing and sets new records now and then in the toughest format in cricket, ignoring them completely kills their confidence. It also puts people in a sticky situation, knowing performances may never be enough no matter how consistent one is. Indian team selectors and the management have bizarre selection criteria.
When you look at Jayant Yadav, an all-rounder who made his debut in the longest format in 2016 versus England, he claimed nine scalps and scored two fifty-plus scores. He was dropped after a match versus Australia in 2017. Jayant made a comeback in 2021 versus New Zealand, claimed five scalps, and then had a rare outing versus Sri Lanka early last year. Now, he is nowhere in the mix.
Looking at Sarfaraz, any other side would have him in the squad and even give him a chance to play. But India has been wrong toward him.
Stats don’t lie!
In 37 FC matches, 25-year-old Sarfaraz has amassed 3505 runs at an astonishing average of 79.65. He has 13 tons and nine fifties. In the ongoing Ranji season, Sarfaraz has plundered 556 runs at 92.66. He has hit three tons and a fifty. In 2021-22, Sarfaraz scored a record 982 runs from six games at 122.75. His tally included four tons and two fifties, with the best of 275. In 2019-20, Sarfaraz plundered 928 runs at 154.66. His best was 301*. No Indian player in this timeline has scored more runs with this average.
Sarfaraz deserves every bite of the cake, and ignoring him shows the picture of ignorance and demerit. He deserves a place ahead of KL Rahul in that playing XI, and more so, Suryakumar shouldn’t be in the squad altogether. Runs define a batter, and selection should follow suit, but Sarfaraz has been on the receiving end of favouritism in the Indian camp. He will want to keep scoring runs in Ranji and India A tours and then keep his fingers crossed. Not just that, the agony may remain longer as even if he gets selected and is present in the squad, he may be dropped post that. Ask a Jayant or a Mayank Agarwal; they may shed more light!