The strange case of Karun Nair
The 2 Test series versus West Indies at home is starting on 4th October and the selectors deserve Kudos for finally getting new talents like Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal in the squad. There had been a feeling that once again Shikhar Dhawan’s ODI success would get him yet another chance and same with Rohit Sharma. However, the selectors seem to have resisted that temptation.
What is however extremely inexplicable and baffling is why Karun Nair is not in the squad. Especially since he was in the squad for the tough 3 month tour of England and did not play a single match. How does one drop a player without giving him the chance to show his mettle, or lack of it.
Let us take the background behind Karun Nair’s selection for the England series. It was an extended 18 member team for only three tests and while there was back up for all including wicket-keeper, opener, spinners and pace bowlers, for the middle order too it was Karun Nair who was the back up and who replaced Rohit Sharma in the squad.
The series did not proceed too well and mid-course correction was required after three tests. However, while an opener Murali Vijay was dropped and an opener Prithvi Shaw selected, strangely a batsman Hanuma Vihari was selected for the dropped spinner Kuldeep Yadav.
Even more strangely it was Hanuma Vihari who played a Test match and not the 1st choice in the squad Karun Nair. This goes against all conventional logic.
Let us go back earlier to Karun Nair’s start in international cricket. In domestic cricket Karun was very successful with an average of over 55. He became only the 1st batsman to score a 300 in a Ranji trophy final in 68 years, after Baroda’s Gul Mohammed versus Holkar. In the previous Ranji season he had a successful outing with 2 centuries in back to back knockout matches and 3 back to back centuries overall. 1st class success was the reason for his entry to the Indian team, and at 23-24, youth was on his side as well.
Karun started his test career by getting run out for 4 and then having a low score of only 13 in his 2nd innings in his 2nd test match. However in just his 3rd Test match, in his 3rd test innings, Karun slammed an unbeaten 303. England had scored a normally safe 477, but Karun’s knock took India to a 282 run lead, and as it turned out, to an unlikely win- considering England’s substantial 1st innings total. Karun was the man of the match and became only the 3rd player to convert his maiden test ton into a 300, joining legend Garry Sobers and former Aussie captain Bob Simpson.
Unfortunately however Karun was dropped the test after he scored a 300, becoming the 1st ever player to miss the next test for reasons other than injury. Andy Sandham (9 car accident), Len Hutton (injury) and Inzamam (injury) had missed it for injury reasons. However, Karun was certainly unlucky. The player coming back from injury, Ajinkya was preferred over him. Various examples were cited including the famous example of Stuart Law who played only one test innings of 54 not out before giving way to Ricky Ponting. There was a crucial difference. There is a difference between a 54 and a 300, a feat done only 30 times in over 2000 Test matches played so far.
Karun did get a chance later but scores of 26, 0, 23 and 5 versus Australia over 3 test matches saw him dropped from the Indian team. It did seem after Rohit Sharma’s failures which led him to be dropped from the team to England that Karun’s career will get a fresh start, but as detailed above, that was not to be.
Harbhajan Singh has joined those who have criticised Karun’s sacking. To ESPNcricinfo Bhajji queried “How can a person sitting on the bench for three months become so bad that he is not good enough to remain in the squad? Trust me, I am at pains to understand the thinking of this selection committee and the parameters that they are using for selecting national squads.”
To compound the confusion, while Karun said that neither the team management nor the selectors have communicated with him. However Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad says that he elaborately spoke to Karun and also told him the ways of getting back to the test team. Now what can that be- score runs, obviously. However why was he dropped without getting a chance to prove his worth. That question has been deftly side-stepped. MSK also said that in a home series, he did not want Karun to be in the squad without playing. Why not? What is wrong with that? Rather that is the reason a squad is selected so that the best playing 11 can be chosen from players of a squad, keeping in mind pitch conditions etc.
Latest is that there is a rumour floating around that Karun has attitudinal problems. If so, the same may please be confirmed or denied by the team management.
MSK finally says that Karun is very much in the scheme of things for test matches and as of now “we have advised him to focus on performing in domestic and India A matches Easier said than done, Mr Chairman. Please understand a simple point- You don’t drop anyone without giving him a chance to prove himself.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films and music.
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