Delhi have left Test bowler Ishant Sharma out of their Ranji Trophy squad because he "didn't answer our call or responded to my text," Vinay Lamba, their chairman of selectors has told ESPNcricinfo. Ishant, who is in the middle of a Test resurgence, was not picked in India's limited-overs sides to play South Africa.
Ishant should be available to play domestic cricket until the Test series against South Africa, which begins in the first week of November, but an already controversial Delhi team has courted more of it by leaving him out. Rajat Bhatia, an important allrounder in Indian domestic cricket, was also left out of a squad that will be captained by Gautam Gambhir and coached by former India batsman Ajay Jadeja, according to a release from the DDCA.
That a selection meeting occurred was an achievement in itself, after three different squads were asked to report to the preparatory camp by three factions in the DDCA. There was no clarity yet on the coach, though Jadeja, the man nominated and approved by the government nominees, is looking after the team right now.
When asked if Ishant had expressed unwillingness to play, Lamba said, "He is our senior bowler, how can we say that about him? But we tried to get in touch with him yesterday, but he didn't respond. I left a text, but didn't get a reply."
Bhatia's exclusion will also surprise the followers of domestic cricket. He has been a valuable player for Delhi over the years, averaging 34 with for 305 runs and 23 for 12 wickets in the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy. He will turn 36 this season, but is quite fit.
There have been rumours that Gambhir and Bhatia, team-mates at Kolkata Knight Riders until Bhatia was bought by Rajasthan Royals at the 2014 IPL auction, have fallen out. Sources inside the DDCA said that while Gambhir did say, "it would be difficult" to play Bhatia in the XI, it had nothing to do with any personal equation. The selectors said they didn't want to pick "such a senior" player just to bench him. Sources said Gambhir had called up Bhatia and explained to him why he was not being picked.
There had been reports earlier of indecision over whether Gambhir or Unmukt Chand - India A's limited-overs captain against Bangladesh A - should lead the side. Chand was named deputy to Gambhir in the squad that has seven batsmen, two spinners, five quicks and a wicketkeeper.
Delhi squad Gautam Gambhir (captain), Unmukt Chand (vice-captain), Vaibhav Rawal, Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana, Yogesh Nagar, Dhruv Shorey, Manan Sharma, Pulkit Narang, Mohit Ahlawat (wk), Parvinder Awana, Sumit Narwal, Pradeep Sangwan, Pawan Suyal, Sarang Rawat
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo