December 18, 2008

Selection

A question of contracts

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra pulls the ball during his 55, Tamil Nadu v Delhi, Ranji Trophy Super League, Group A, 7th round, 2nd day, Chennai,   December 26, 2007
 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Enlarge

Dear readers

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.

Cheers

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

RSS Feeds: Aakash Chopra

Keywords: Selection

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Ramgopal L on (November 1, 2009, 9:14 GMT)

Hi Akash, although I know nothing about the selection procedures, I can comment only one thing. The Team India is seemingly poised to be called as "Team North India". It seems there are no capable players in the rest of India even if some players have proved their abilities with in the last year.

Posted by Hari on (January 18, 2009, 21:32 GMT)

Set your sights higher, you belong to Test cricket. A D grade contract is not important enough. If Cape Town, SCG, Colombo, Mumbai (against a certain Shaun Udal), Ahmedabad, as also the second innings at Nagpur are anything to go by, this Indian team is not a finished product yet. Ask yourself if you can fill that gap, even after all these disappointments. If you believe you can, then simply keep working on becoming as good a cricketer you can possibly become. You are already good enough to merit a place in the Test side but perhaps when you make your comeback, you should genuinely believe that you are no less valuable than Sachin, Laxman, sehwag or whoever. If Jimmy didn't believe he was as good as Sunny or Vishy on the 82-83 Pak tour, he would never have been remembered as an all time great. So set your sights higher.

Posted by Samir Pabari on (January 11, 2009, 8:02 GMT)

Hey Aakash, Dont be disheartened mate, maybe you should network with the right people and see if you can be put back on the list. After all its BCCI and futher more its INDIA!! So difficult things maybe hard to achive but not miracles. I enjoy reading your articles. Best wishes for 2009 and beyond.

Posted by Dealer on (January 2, 2009, 20:42 GMT)

For those idiots who have used comments to attack Akash, some questions:

(i) If the idea is that only future cricketers should get contracts, what is Jaffer doing there, and that too with a Grade C contract? And what is Md. Kaif doing on the list?

(ii) If Akash is "too old" or "too slow" wasnt he that last year? What changed?

(iii) What is Irfan Pathan doint with a Grade B contract? Similar question re Badrinath who has played a handful of international games and done nothing of note.

@ Shekhar, when Shoib tore the Daredevils apart they did need Akash :)

What Akash is made of is demonstrated by the fact that immediately after writing this he scored a double century (and twice as many as Shikhar Diwan )... I dont know too many who would have the guts to do that... what a slap in the face of the BCCI contract system

Posted by Pratap on (December 26, 2008, 8:54 GMT)

Hi Akash, I went through the list of contracted players and I really think you were unlucky to miss out. Economic security aside,it does reflect the selectors mindset whether you are in the fringes for them or not. The success of your delhi mates Sehwag and Gambhir have emboldened the selector to have just two other test openers in the list. One of them is Wasim Jaffer, who has been given lot of chances and I doubt selectors go back to him. Nothing wrong with Jaffer but selectors tend to look beyond a person if he has failed a few times. Another one is Vijay who looks an exciting prospect. With Dravid in the twilight of his career it made sense to groom one more person for that slot and an injury backup. And you with a long first class record was a good choice. Rohit/Raina/Pujara will mostly take no 4 or 5 vacated by Lax/Sach in couple of years. 3 needs someone solid, but the selectors are banking on Kaif/Badri/Vijay.I think they are thinking about your age 2 years from now. SAD LOGIC

Posted by Vamsee on (December 24, 2008, 17:04 GMT)

Well the last comment is one of the best. Switch to Delhi Daredevils and blast the bowlers. I am sure with solid technique and experience you can do that. It is unfortunate that only few get chances and only very very few were given continuous chances even after bad performances. But at international level, I guess, you need to constantly perform. Some realise it quick and some don't. After playing Australia in Australia you could have cracked a 100 in India against them. But you deserve few more chances I believe. To all those who question the scores, just don't forget that Dravids, gangulys, sehwags were given enough chances to become what they are today. You never know what someone is capable of unless you give them a chance. Utilise the few years of cricket left in you to leave an impression on the game. You can still become a great without a contract and place in national team. Take some catches, score many runs and entertain us in IPL 2009.

Posted by Sekhar on (December 22, 2008, 11:56 GMT)

As a fellow commenter mentioned,if 3 double centuries don't get noticed go for 6 next time.Perhaps go for triple centuries.Probably that's what earned a contract for Cheteshwar Pujara.Get noticed in some way.Very few are going to notice you by your Ranji double centuries.Pujara had consecutive triple centuries and he gets noticed.Virat Kohli won the U-19 world cup for India and he gets into reckoning.Switch to the Delhi Daredevils(Knightriders will do you no good) and play some slam bang cricket in the IPL and I'm sure your fortunes will change drastically.

Posted by Sriraj on (December 22, 2008, 11:49 GMT)

How can some people like Ano say he has got enough chances!? just two full series and he was very solid while opening there. scores don't always reveal everything. akash deserves more.

maybe its time to stop believeing BCCI and make a move to a England like M Kartik. atleast he will get better recognition over there. BCCI always have some weird decisions to make!

they have just missed a top player like in the past. Akash has had a great season and he should be opening for india by now.

Posted by Santhosh Sivaramakrishnan on (December 22, 2008, 5:03 GMT)

Akash, Don't lose hope mate. Your anguish is understandable and your non-controversial comments indicate to me that you don't want to rub the wrong side of BCCI, which says that you still hope to get that elusive call one day. That is a good thing, so keep piling on the runs in the Ranji play-offs. You do realize that you have a long list of youngsters catching up like Vijay, Pujara, Mukund and Rahane. To catch the selectors' eye now for a call or contract, you will HAVE to focus hard and make double/triple hundreds. It is THE only option for you, which also means you need to score faster than you are, so that you don't have to bat out 2 full days or look selfish within the Delhi team setup.

Good luck Akash, someone who has scored 1700 domestic runs last season, can do something bigger this year.

Posted by obsin82 on (December 21, 2008, 18:08 GMT)

Well let me explain - BCCI has been traditionally getting youngsters for national team from good performing Ranji players. Players like Pujara, Badrinath, Raina,..also have came this way. Now if you are not giving a contract to a guy who scores 1300 odd runs in a single season, you are just saying, "do hell with Ranji performance". So they are damning the very basics of their selection criteria - good first class performances. People will shun playing first class cricket and only enroll for 20-20. Where from will they get the next generation of Fab-Fours?

But I think there are much darker things happening behind. I think BCCI wants to overthrow this whole Test cricket thing one day and starts its multi-tier 20-20 headed by IPL very soon. It just wants to OWN cricket.

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
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.

All articles by this writer