In an unusual development, Parth Jindal, the director of JSW Sports and co-owner of Delhi Captials, has questioned the exclusion his franchise players - Rishabh Pant and R Ashwin - from India's limited-over teams.
Describing both of them as "X-factor" players in a series of two tweets, Jindal said not playing Pant in the limited-overs leg of the New Zealand series "made no sense" while he failed to understand the "aversion" to a "wicket-taker" like Ashwin.
Jindal's comments, which he tweeted on Wednesday, are uncommon because IPL team owners do not usually voice their opinion on national selection matters. In the past, reactions on selection matters have mostly come from IPL team coaches. Pant was the subject of debate last year when former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who happens to be the head coach at the Capitals, wondered how India could have left him out of the initial World Cup squad.
The debate over Pant continues to rage. Doubts have persisted both about his wicketkeeping in the limited-overs format as well as his batting. He suffered concussion during the first ODI in Mumbai in the three-match home series against Australia, and KL Rahul kept wicket when India took the field. Since then, Pant has been on the bench for all nine of India's limited-overs matches across formats. Virat Kohli has also said since that India now favour Rahul, who has been in rich batting form, as the first-choice wicketkeeper in white-ball cricket.
Jindal remarked that instead of staying in the reserves during the limited-overs legs of the New Zealand tour, Pant should have ideally played for India A, which was on a shadow tour at the same time.
Jindal also questioned why the visitors could not find a place for Pant in the final matches of the T20I and ODI series after India and New Zealand had won the respective series by then.
"And why carry @RishabhPant17 only for him to warm the bench?," Jindal said in one of his tweets on Wednesday. "Surely he would have benefited from paying against New Zealand A or domestic cricket? To see a player as talented as him not play the 5th T20 and now the 3rd ODI makes no sense #Xfactor."
Jindal's first tweet concerned Ashwin, one of Capitals' new acquisitions.
"Don't know why @ashwinravi99 is not in this team! There seems to be an aversion to wicket takers! After white washing the kiwis in T20's the Kiwis showing India that the semi final victory in the World Cup was no fluke. India needs wicket takers and players with X factor."
Ashwin, India's premier Test spinner, was one of the biggest trades in the IPL last year after Kings XI Punjab - whom he had captained in the previous two seasons - allowed him to shift to Capitals. Alongside Harbhajan Singh, Ashwin has consistently remained one of the best fingerspinners in the IPL. He is only one of nine spinners in the IPL with an economy rate of under 7 (min. 500 balls), and has the second-best economy rate - 6.38 - in the powerplay phase, behind Sunil Narine (min. 300 balls). He is also the seventh-highest wicket-taker (125) in the tournament's history.
Despite that, Ashwin's last game for India in limited-overs cricket was in July 2017. The selectors have since preferred to bank on the wristspinning pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav and, recently, Ravindra Jadeja.
Last March, at the outset of the IPL, Ashwin said he was "no slouch" and was sitting out only because of the "perception" created "about wristspinners being required in modern one-day cricket."
Having missed out on getting picked for the 2019 World Cup, Ashwin could once again remain hopeful during the upcoming IPL, with the T20 World Cup taking placed in October in Australia. IPL form, India head coach Ravi Shastri has stressed, will remain a key factor for selection.