“If we remove politics from every street in India, each street will produce a World Champion”-R Madhavan in Saala Khadoos
This dialogue from the sports film Saala Khadoos is all the more relevant in light of the recent events that took place in the Delhi & District Cricket Association(DDCA).
After repeated failures in the past few seasons of the Ranji Trophy, not much was expected from Delhi this season. But Delhi punched above their weight and reached the finals of the Ranji Trophy only to be defeated by minnows Vidharbha in the penultimate clash. Still, it was a successful season and marshalled pretty well by the young wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant who took over the captaincy from Gautam Gambhir. Under normal circumstances, their performance would call for a celebration and one would expect Rishabh Pant to retain the captaincy in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament which is currently ongoing. But the DDCA selectors led by former Indian cricketer Atul Wassan had other plans in mind. In a shocking decision, Rishabh Pant was removed as a captain and fast bowler Pradeep Sangwan who last played a competitive match on May 10, 2017, for the Gujarat Lions in the IPL was drafted in.
Pradeep Sangwan, the left arm pacer holds the ignominy of being the first Indian cricketer to be tested positive for doping. After not having played a competitive match for almost 10 months no one expected him to be in the squad let alone making him the captain. Rishabh Pant was dropped on the pretext of losing form due to captaincy. Yes, it is true that Rishabh Pant performed below par as far as batting is concerned. He scored 315 runs in 7 matched with an average of 35.
Considering his high standards and his performance last season in the Ranji Trophy where he plundered 972 runs in 8 matches at an average of 81.
Don’t forget that Rishabh Pant is just 19 years old and to lead a team at such a young age does have consequences and deserved another chance given the fact under his stewardship, the team reached the finals. Also, Rishabh Pant is known for his limited over heroics especially in T20s and the Syed Mushtaq Ali cup being a T20 tournament, one would expect Rishabh Pant to excel, with or without captaincy. For someone who is being groomed to replace MS Dhoni once the legend decides to hang up his gloves, this sudden snub must be huge to swallow. However, Rishabh Pant decided to answer his critics on the field by smashing a record 32 ball 100 against Himachal Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 cup. While Pradeep Sangwan expectedly went for runs against Services and HP, two sides with one of the weakest batting lineups in the competition leaking 42 runs @10.5runs/ over against services and went for 39 email@example.com runs/over against HP picking up 2 wickets each against both the teams. To his credit, he went for just 16 runs and picked up 2 wickets against Jammu and Kashmir, arguably the weakest side in the tournament.
But the story doesn’t end here. Atul Wassan with his exceptional intellect decided to select a player in the squad for the same tournament who hadn’t played a competitive match for over a year. Sarthak Ranjan, son of MP Pappu Yadav aka Rajesh Ranjan who once used to enjoy the status of being Lalu Prasad Yadav’s right hand. His mother Ranjeet Ranjan is also an MP from Supaul on a Congress ticket. Sarthak Ranjan who hasn’t played a competitive match this season decided to quit cricket in order to participate in Mr. India competition and decided to focus on body-building. His inclusion in the last edition of the Mushtaq Ali campaign was met with fierce criticism too and he duly returned with stellar scores of 5,3 and 2 in the three matches he played.
Think getting to play for a state team is hard? Not if you have famous parents. All it took for Sarthak to back in the squad was a letter from his mother stating that her son was “suffering from depression” and is now completely fit to play the game. Atul Wassan (un)surprisingly didn’t attempt to verify her claims or check Sarthak’s fitness. Wassan in his defence claimed that he has been monitoring Sarthak for a long time and the talent he has it was difficult to not include him. Certainly, a player who scored a mammoth 10 runs in three matches last season couldn’t be dropped. On the contrary, Wassan never saw Sarthak play in a competitive match. Atul Wassan decided to turn up to observe a practice session of the U-23 Delhi team of which Sarthak was a part of. One practice session was enough for Wassan to spot the ‘talents’ of Sarthak Ranjan who according to Atul Wassan can play in any position from 1 to 5. Given the struggles of the Indian team in South Africa, the BCCI must take a look at this prodigy. Virat Kohli, are you listening?
The buck doesn’t stop here. Sarthak was promoted to the senior team at the expense of Hiten Dalal who emerged as the top scorer in the CK Nayudu U-23 trophy. Riding high on the exploits of Dalal, Delhi trounced their opponents and clinched the trophy. Dalal scored 468 runs in the CK Nayudu Trophy, including one century, three half-centuries at an average of 52 and a strike rate of 91.58. He, in fact, hit 17 sixes in the longer format. What message does it send to a young boy like Hiten whose parents don’t aren’t powerful politicians?
Atul Wassan (laughably) claimed that he had no idea who Sarthak’s parents were until his selection created controversies. A man of his word Wassan earlier claimed that he backs his selections and will give Sarthak a run with the senior team. Now after fielding him against Jammu and Kashmir and Services, Sarthak has been demoted to the U-23 side and Unmukt Chand has been named as a replacement. So much for backing his selections. Perhaps this was a well-executed strategy given the fact that the IPL auctions are less than 10 days away. By fielding Sarthak against weaker oppositions, Atul Wassan enabled Sarthak to be eligible for the upcoming IPL auctions. One won’t be surprised if he was picked up some franchisee under the uncapped player’s quota. When the job was done, Atul Wassan cleverly backtracked by ‘demoting’ Sarthak to avoid further scrutiny.
Atul Wassan decided to showcase his penchant for finding young talents again when he drafted in 27 years old, Kshitiz Sharma into the senior team for their T20 campaign. He was selected on the back of scintillating performances in the Lala Raghubir Trophy – a tournament that is played at the Modern School Barakhamba ground. However, there is one small catch. The tournament is played with a 30-yard boundary neither sides. Kshitiz scored a mammoth 7 runs off 7 balls in the only match he played against Services. Expect him to go from strength to strength as the tournament progresses.
Meanwhile, as Hiten Dalal who waits on the standby list for the senior team, this is just one of the many cases which expose the stench of internal politics in sports especially cricket in India.
If young talents like Rishabh Pant and Hiten Dalal are left to the hands of weird selectors like Atul Wassan, India will never be able to replace the likes of MS Dhoni. Such is the scenario, that in order to excel in any sports field in India, talent is optional but having powerful relatives is not.
I am sure there are Wassans present in every sports field and until the time we don’t root out people like them, India can only dream to become a Sports Powerhouse.
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