Jaiswal’s WTC call-up: For IPL show or domestic form?

The tendency to fast-track young Indian cricketers into the international arena, especially in Tests, on the basis of their IPL performances has often come in for criticism

Yashasvi Jaiswal (photo courtesy @aps4995/Twitter)
Yashasvi Jaiswal (photo courtesy @aps4995/Twitter)
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Gautam Bhattacharyya

There was little surprise when Yashasvi Jaiswal, the precocious talent who was at his prolific best in the IPL for the Rajasthan Royals, was named as the standby opener in the Indian team for the World Test Championship (WTC) final next month. The Mumbai opener was drafted in place of Ruturaj Gaekwad, who had to pull out for his wedding dates falling too close to the fixture.

It’s very unlikely that the Royals batter, who was the franchise’s top scorer in the season with 625 runs (at a strike rate of 164), will get a look-in in place of either captain Rohit Sharma or the in-form Shubman Gill — though the exposure of being with the Test side in English conditions will be an invaluable one for Jaiswal. India will be squaring off against Pat Cummins’ Australia at The Oval in London from May 7-11.

A call by the national selectors that deserves to be lauded as Jaiswal —whose saga of rising from a teenager running errands at a Mumbai maidan club to one of the hot properties in IPL this year — made even the international media sit up. It was not exactly a knee-jerk reaction based on his form and hunger for runs in the Royals shirt, but it was rather a culmination of a brilliant domestic 2022-23 season as well.

It was just on the eve of IPL that the youngster had a memorable outing in the Irani Cup, smashing 213 and 144, respectively in either innings for the rest of India against Madhya Pradesh, the 2021-22 Ranji champions. While his Ranji campaign could be termed as a moderate success with an aggregate of 404 runs in five games (with one hundred and a 50), Jaiswal was on fire in Duleep Trophy with consecutive double centuries in the Duleep Trophy which he followed up with 203 off 154 balls against Jharkhand in Vijay Hazare Trophy.

What had been remarkable was the adaptability he showed in approaching the T20 format and as well as red-ball cricket — not afraid to open up from the first over itself in the shorter format while showing an enormous hunger to build on the starts in domestic cricket. A perfect case of him trying to build on the early promise that Jaiswal showed by emerging as the Player of the Series in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2020.

However, the tendency to fast-track young Indian cricketers into the international arena, especially in Tests, on the basis of their IPL performances has often come in for criticism — and rightly so. Just ponder this: would the hype around Jaiswal have been the same if he did not quite have such an explosive season in the IPL?

Jaiswal’s selection ahead of someone like the experienced opener Mayank Agarwal highlights a dilemma for the decision-makers of Indian cricket. The latter may have had a rather forgettable IPL 2023 in Sunrisers Hyderabad, but the Karnataka captain was the highest scorer in the 22-23 season of Ranji Trophy with an aggregate of 990 runs in nine (with three centuries and six half-centuries).

The other example of IPL triggering the comeback of Ajinkya Rahane, who effected a major makeover in his batting style for Chennai Super Kings, was another example of how the league dominates the mind space of the selectors ahead of international engagements these days. Not many would have even remembered that the senior pro, who had successfully captained the Indian team, had a successful Ranji campaign for Mumbai if he hadn’t rediscovered his mojo in the IPL.  

This is the new reality in Indian cricket!

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