From Triple Century to Out in the Cold: What Went Wrong for Karun?
What has Karun Nair done to be ousted? He did not even receive opportunities to fail.
Karun Nair’s rise through domestic cricket into the international scene was greeted with the routine challenges and hardships that befall every other young player who dreams to play for the nation. He followed the coach’s words to precision, piling on truckloads of runs in the domestic arena, till the selectors could no longer overlook his efforts.
With an injury to Ajinkya Rahane during England’s tour to India in 2016/17, all attention turned towards Nair and little did he disappoint, as he romped away to an unbeaten 303 at Chennai to become only the second Indian cricketer after Virender Sehwag to register a triple ton in Tests.
However, Virat Kohli was upfront in suggesting that Rahane would walk into the playing XI once he regained full fitness because he was integral to the team’s plans, with Nair acting as a back-up – a policy that the Australian cricket team are known to follow, in case a replacement manages to impress with his performances in the absence of a regular.
The Mumbaikar returned to the playing XI against Bangladesh, scoring 82 with Nair coming in to play three Tests against Australia. He mustered up 26, 0, 23 and 5 during the series.
Despite the fact that the numbers were hardly inspiring, Nair needed an extended run with the Indian team but instead he was ignored and was not picked henceforth in the squad in 2017.
However, once Rahane’s poor run commenced and the selectors picked up Rohit Sharma in the squad for South Africa after his exploits in white-ball cricket, the unfair handling of the 26-year-old could not be overlooked.
Rohit, who has hardly performed in line with expectations in Tests, looked uncomfortable in the swinging conditions in South Africa while Rahane played only one game himself, with Kohli preferring Rohit over the latter.
Picking a player based on his exploits in another format has been a long-standing debate, and with Nair smashing 153 runs in Ranji cricket just days before the team to South Africa was to be picked, the move sparked a furore.
A Set of Unanswered Questions
With the experiment of playing Rohit in Tests not panning out as they would have hoped for, the management turned to Nair once again for the tour of England. After trying out various permutations and combinations, a lacklustre Hardik Pandya was dropped for the fifth Test, which opened up a slot for a player to be drafted in at Number six. Courtesy of seniority, the position should have rightfully been Nair’s but it was Hanuma Vihari who was not even in the squad for the first three Tests who edged out the triple centurion.
Why was Nair included in the side if he was never in the management’s plans? Vihari, too, had climbed up the ranks of domestic cricket, very much like Nair, who averages 51.09 in first-class cricket. Does Vihari’s average of 59.06 indicate that he can push aside a vastly talented player who has churned out what was asked of him?
Nair later suggested that no member from the management explained the reason for this unceremonious behaviour either, which only increased the confusion over his place further.
What Has Nair Done to be Ousted?
Worse still, the Karnataka player was overlooked for the series against West Indies, which could have been yet another chance for him to prove his mettle. In his place Mayank Agarwal was chosen ahead in the team in a move that remains vastly befuddling. What has Nair done to be ousted? He did not even receive opportunities to fail, which, if he had done so, could have silenced the questions they kept cropping up.
A blatant refusal followed when Nair was asked if either the skipper or the coach had communicated with him the reasons for his omission, once again suggesting how miscommunication and iffy selections are rampant in the Indian set-up.
With KL Rahul, too, being ignored from the ODI side despite him being in blazing form and with the Indian middle-order looking unsettled, India’s yearning to look for other options when a suitable candidate is present, is not only baffling but unfortunate as well.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. She spends her hours gorging on food and blabbering nineteen to the dozen while awaiting the next Indian sporting triumph.)
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.