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Only players with hunger to play Tests will get opportunity: Rohit

Rohit didn’t mention Ishan Kishan or Shreyas Iyer — both are under fire for missing Ranji Trophy — but sent out a firm message after the Ranchi Test win

Without taking any names, India captain Rohit Sharma has indicated that only those players will be considered for selection who show the hunger to play at the highest level. This further intensifies the scrutiny on Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer who have skipped Ranji Trophy matches after being let go by the national team. It has evoked sharp reaction from BCCI with its secretary Jay Shah warning the players they would face “severe implications” if they skip domestic games and prioritise IPL.

India’s captain Rohit Sharma addresses a press conference after their win during the fourth Test against England (AFP)

“This (Test cricket) is the toughest format,” said Sharma at the press conference after India’s five-wicket win against England here on Monday. “And if you want success and want to excel in this tough format, then you need that hunger. It is very important. We will give opportunities only to players who have that hunger.

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“You come to know the players who don’t have that hunger, players who don’t want to stay here. We come to know that. Players who have that hunger, players who want to stay here and perform, play in tough conditions, we will give preference to them. It is pretty simple; if you don’t have hunger, there’s no meaning in playing such players.”

Iyer played the first two Tests against England before being left out of the squad for the third and fourth Tests. He opted out of Mumbai’s Ranji quarter-final against Baroda citing a back issue, but according to reports he is said to be fine. Kishan, who was let go from India’s Test squad in South Africa early this year after he had cited personal reasons, has opted out of Jharkhand’s Ranji matches. Sharma was careful about not directing his comments towards them though.

“At present I don’t see anyone who doesn’t have that hunger. Those who are here in the squad and even those who are not here — every one of them wants to play,” he said. “But the opportunities at this level come very few times. If you don’t utilise them, then you lose that chance. We all have experienced that. So those players who utilise the opportunities, who make the team win, who perform for the team, obviously that is noted. That is very important.”

Never before have India been so handicapped in such a crucial home series. If Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami were notable absentees, at different times of this series India have missed or benched key players like Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah. For India to still win the series with a Test to go is a testament to the skill set of the next generation, and the bench strength.

“These guys who have come in have done the job perfectly. They have taken the responsibility perfectly and you can take a lot of pride from performances like this with inexperienced players.

Whatever you say, Test cricket throws different kind of challenges, different kind of pressures. But some of these players, the way they have dealt with the pressure throughout the series has been superb. A lot of these young guys have never played Test cricket before, never been part of the Indian dressing room.”

The step-up from domestic cricket to international level can be daunting but Sharma feels the transition has been handled quite well by the seniors. “(Yashasvi) Jaiswal is still hunky-dory,” Sharma said with a smile. “But other than that all these guys are quite humble. They come from a humble background, so they take that into their game as well. Our job is to make sure that the environment is there for them to go out and do the job, and that is what we try and do with a lot of these younger players. They have spent a lot of time playing domestic cricket, so they are quite aware of this format, playing longer innings, bowling longer spells.

“And when they come for a series like this, it’s important for us to understand what their thinking is and then mix and match a little bit with what we think and what they think, and you form a strategy around it. That is what we’ve done in this series, understanding what the bowlers want to do, how the batters want to bat, and then our job is to make sure that we follow the team’s plan, whatever it is. Whatever the challenges that are thrown at us, we try and respond to that.”


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