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News Analysis

Why Kishan and Iyer missed out on BCCI contracts

While their abilities were not in question, it is understood that their decision to practically make themselves unavailable for India has not sat well with the selectors

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
28-Feb-2024
Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan have not been considered for BCCI's annual retainers because they practically made themselves unavailable to play for India.
Kishan took a break from cricket for personal reasons during the South Africa tour, and returned to action only earlier this week in the DY Patil T20 tournament. Iyer was cleared fit by the NCA before the selection for the second half of the ongoing Test series, but didn't appear either for India or for Mumbai in the week that followed.
The BCCI release announcing the contracts ended with an uncharacteristic piece of information: "The BCCI has recommended that all athletes give precedence to participating in domestic cricket during periods when they are not representing the national team."
Two weeks ago, the BCCI secretary Jay Shah had written a letter to the centrally contracted players to not prioritise the IPL over domestic cricket and national duties. The letter had warned them of "severe implications".
Even Rohit Sharma, the India captain, said in his press conference after the Ranchi Test on Sunday that players who show the "hunger" for Test cricket will be given preference going forward. He said he realised Test cricket is a tough format, which needs players who will show the required hunger.
When Kishan was not selected for the Tests against England, India coach Rahul Dravid said that he hadn't yet made himself available, and that he would have to play some kind of domestic cricket to be eligible for a comeback. ESPNcricinfo understands the team management had got in touch with him during the on-going Test series against England, but Kishan said he was not ready yet. In his absence, Dhruv Jurel debuted and won the Player-of-the-Match award in his second Test.
Iyer's absence seems to be a disagreement with the fitness assessment done by the NCA. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that after the second Test, Iyer expressed discomfort in his back when playing long innings, but the medical staff cleared him of any injury. When Iyer was left out for the third and fourth Tests, the BCCI didn't offer any reason. When he didn't turn up for Mumbai in the next week's Ranji Trophy match, Mumbai Cricket Association sources said he had back spasms.
ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the selectors, who make the recommendations for contracts, were not pleased that Kishan used this time away from the game to train with his IPL captain Hardik Pandya in Baroda, and that Iyer was at Kolkata Knight Riders' pre-season camp when missing the match for Mumbai. Iyer has since made himself available for Mumbai's semi-final match in the Ranji Trophy.
"The selectors don't doubt their ability," a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. "But if the NCA is saying you are fit and you are not making yourself available for the Test series, how can the BCCI offer you a contract?
"After the IPL, if they happen to get selected and fulfil the criteria of the number of matches required for a pro-rata contract, they will be awarded a contract."
The ability of Iyer and Kishan is not in any doubt. In fact, India waited till the last possible moment before the ODI World Cup to give Iyer every chance to get back to full fitness. Kishan is an ODI double-centurion, who was India's Test wicketkeeper in Rishabh Pant's absence until KL Rahul was also selected as a wicketkeeper for the South Africa tour. Even if Kishan had reasons to believe Rahul might have been preferred in the Tests in South Africa, in which case he decided to tend to his personal matters, his refusal to play for Jharkhand but getting ready for the IPL has not sat well with the selectors.
This was perhaps the "severe implications" that Shah warned the players of in the letter, in which he also wrote that players prioritising the IPL over domestic cricket was unprecedented. Now the BCCI seems to have made a tangible statement to address the conflict.

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo