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A few years ago the BCCI started giving out contracts to the top players in the country. It was a great way of providing players with some security for a year, and also rewarding them for their performances in the season gone by. The contract system works on the principle of reviewing the performances of the contracted players during the period of the contract, which is from the 1st of October to the 30th of September. On the basis of the performances in that period, either a player's contract is renewed or dropped from the list altogether. There is also the grade system that ensures the more deserving players get just rewards, and the renewal of contract could also come with promotions or demotions to other grades.
Initially, the list of contracted players was limited to the top players in the country, and it had no more than 25 players spread over three grades. But last year the BCCI went a step further, and included the players who were doing really well in the domestic circuit. It was a great gesture from the BCCI, and it rewarded a lot of players for their performances. Well, everyone can't be playing for the country at the same time, and hence getting a contract was a huge encouragement. Once you have the contract, contrary to popular belief, not only does it bring the money and security, but it also adds to the motivation to do well, knowing that you're in the loop and would be rewarded again if you do well.
Last year with the contract under my belt, I was all geared up for the season and played with the single-mindedness of proving right the decision to back me. It was a great feeling to be back in the loop after three years of wandering in the wilderness after getting dropped from the national side. It was good to be back.
I went on to score 1339 runs at 60 runs per innings in the longer format, and was the highest run-getter in the season with three double-centuries and two centuries. Incidentally, my tally was the fourth-highest in a single season in the history of Indian first-class cricket. I was lucky to add three unbeaten centuries in the shorter format, taking my season's tally to nearly 1700 runs.
Once you've done that well it's quite natural to expect a call from the national team sooner than later. But having played cricket at this level for over a decade, I very well know that it takes a lot more to make it to the team than just scoring runs. There are just too many variables: if there's a place at the top or not, how the people you are hoping to replace are doing etc. So one can, albeit quite morosely, make peace with the situation when it's fair and logical. In fact one can do that even at times when it isn't.
The new list of contracted players was announced three days ago. I was disheartened not to find my name in the list. For the last couple of days I was mulling over what must have gone against me. Did I not score enough runs in that period? Was I supposed to do something more? And after two days of brainstorming, I am still as confused as I was earlier. If I was disheartened earlier, now I was positively lost. I really don't know how to react to the news of not finding my name in the list. It was, after all, meant to be the reward of doing well in the contract period. One part of me still believes that my name must have been forgotten, as I've always had faith in the system where one performs and gets rewarded. Questions are plenty, but answers are none.
This was written a day before the start of a crucial Ranji Trophy game – against Rajasthan. I thought it was important to get this off my chest, and focus on the job at hand. This is not a personal grudge or a complaint against anyone, but just a penning down of my emotions and sharing it with the people who have loved and prayed for me. After all, that's what blogs are for, right? Perhaps this could get me into the right frame of mind to play a crucial game, perhaps it wouldn't. I really don't know. As I've already said, questions are plenty but answers are none.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.