Debatable selections, 'unfair practices', 10 for 7 - Delhi cricket is in a mess, again
Even as Delhi struggled to stay afloat against Saurashtra, selectors Khoda and Sidhana had a war of words, which ended with Sidhana walking out of the meeting
PTI and ESPNcricinfo staff
Delhi's 2022-23 Ranji Trophy campaign has suffered one blow after another.
They lost one match against Maharashtra outright, conceded the first-innings lead in two others, and are now staring down the barrel against Saurashtra in the ongoing fourth round of matches. Against Saurashtra, in fact, they had slumped to 10 for 7 before recovering to post 133 on the opening day in Rajkot.
Currently seventh in an eight-team pool, their hopes of making the knockouts are fading fast.
Off the field, not unusually, trouble has been brewing, with the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) yet again in the midst of a controversy. On Tuesday, Gagan Khoda and Mayank Sidhana, part of the selection committee that picks the senior and Under-25 men's teams, had a heated exchange during a meeting.
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While the selection of the U-25 team for the next round of CK Nayudu Trophy matches is believed to have been at the centre of the argument, there have been rumblings over inconsistent selections in the Ranji squad too. There are also allegations against DDCA secretary Siddharth Verma, that he had prevented U-25 coach - and former India fast bowler - Pankaj Singh from sitting in the selection meeting.
On Wednesday, Khoda, the former India batter and a national selector during MSK Prasad's tenure as selection chief, alleged that Sidhana had tried to push for "dubious candidates" in the U-25 team.
Sidhana walked out in protest, saying that he had done so because of "certain selections" made by Khoda and Anil Bhardwaj, the third member of the selection panel. "Even secretary Siddharth Verma didn't pay heed to my objections," Sidhana, a former Punjab player, told PTI. "Mr Khoda didn't watch any of the Under-25 trial games and the other selector Mr Bhardwaj only wants one player in the team, Vikas Solanki.
"My contention was his performance when given a chance earlier in BCCI Under-25 tournaments hadn't been great, but they insisted on going by trial-game results. I can't support unfair practices."
Badoni opens, while frontline openers sit out
Within the Ranji set-up, a number of questions have now been raised over Delhi coach Abhay Sharma's preference for handing the opener's role to debutant Ayush Badoni, normally a middle-order batter, against Saurashtra's top-notch attack. Dhruv Shorey has been one of the openers, while murmurs are that the two other openers, Vaibhav Sharma and Salil Malhotra, have been kept out because of internal team politics. The two have been in the team hotel in Rajkot, and not with the team at the ground, since BCCI rules permit only 15 squad members in the dressing room.
Prior to the fourth round of matches, Badoni was slotted in as an opener, even as designated vice-captain Himmat Singh was dropped. Senior batter Nitish Rana, too, has been out of favour, while regular wicketkeeper Anuj Rawat has been relegated to the U-25 team.
"Look, we select a team and the coach selects the playing XI. We don't interfere," Khoda said when asked about the selection shuffle.
Injuries haven't helped Delhi either
Selection issues aside, Delhi have also had to grapple with injuries to key players. They are already without six first-choice fast bowlers, and have had to dig into the reserves to field a pace attack.
Ishant Sharma is recovering from a side strain, while Simarjeet Singh is suffering from a heel injury. Mayank Yadav has a torn hamstring, while Navdeep Saini is rehabilitating at the National Cricket Academy after an injury he picked up on the Test tour of Bangladesh, and Harshit Rana is nursing a toe injury. Pradeep Sangwan, who was captain until the previous season, hasn't been considered.
"You had no pre-season camp, no proper training session and fast bowlers were highly under-cooked," a senior DDCA official had lamented to PTI as the slew of injuries surfaced. "There was no planning, no vision and what has now happened is exactly what was supposed to happen without systems in place. Some of the pacers were unfit before the season."