“Did you really have to take him all the way to Zimbabwe to demoralise him? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just do it at home?”
“Come on BCCI give the young man (Rasool) a chance to prove himself…”
The first tweet had a hint of sarcasm but the next one contained genuine concern. Parvez Rasool is a special cricketer and a lucky man too. In a country like India, getting the backing of your state’s Chief Minister really takes some good fortune.
The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mr. Omar Abdullah, is an avid cricket fan and his disappointment over the “Rasool affair” was fair. Parvez Rasool was the only player of the 15-member Indian squad who didn’t see any action in the recently concluded Zimbabwe series. Even Ajinkya Rahane, who by now has become a pro in bench warming, got a look-in in the last ODI.
Parvez Rasool, the first cricketer to be selected from Jammu and Kashmir, shot to fame with his all-round performances in the Ranji Trophy, last season. However, his selection to the national team was fast-tracked after he wrecked the Australians, by claiming seven wickets, in a tour game earlier this year. He was then drafted in the IPL by the now disbanded Pune Warriors.
It all looked hunky-dory for the young all-rounder, until the tour of Zimbabwe happened. India rested the big names and sent a squad that comprised mostly of the fringe players. Maintaining their current form, India, under the leadership of Virat Kohli, achieved their first overseas clean sweep against the lesser fancied African minnows.
For the first three matches, India fielded a full strength eleven. Pujara didn’t get the nod neither did Mohit Sharma. Rahane, as expected, stuck to his favourite corner of the bench with Rasool in company. After going up 3-0, Pujara and Mohit Sharma were handed their debuts and Rahane, finally, featured into the scheme in the last match. Rasool, unfortunately, remained on the bench throughout the series.
However, Rasool’s exclusion from the playing XI, even after gaining an unassailable lead, has caused quite a furore in the valley and when the Chief Minister himself goes on a twitter rant, things get a little serious. Omar Abdullah wasn’t wrong. Rasool was selected on the merit of his performances and once he was picked, he should have had a chance to test himself at the international level.
But it’s not the first time that an Indian youngster has been on “tourist” – visa on an overseas tour. Does the name Sunil Valson ring a bell? If it doesn’t, it’s not your fault. He never played for India but you will find him in one of the most memorable photographs in Indian cricket. He was the only member of Kapil Dev’s 1983 World Cup winning squad who didn’t play a single game throughout that tournament.
His unique feat was repeated by Parthiv Patel in the 2003 World Cup. The Sourav Ganguly led Indian team had Rahul Dravid keeping wickets and so Patel ended up with an apartment worth crores in the Amby Valley without even featuring in a single game.
It’s a part of the deal and it happens all the time. However, for Rasool, who has already created a huge hype back home, it can be really uncomfortable. He not only carries the baggage of representing a disturbed state, he also had the nation’s eyes on him because, even after the meteoric (read unbelievable) rise of Ravindra Jadeja, India is still looking for the elusive star all-rounder.
In a series that already had its fate sealed even before it began, Rasool was the sole attraction for the Indian fans. However, the Indian think tank had other ideas and according to Virat Kohli –
“I’m not really bothered about what’s being said about people getting chances, because a lot of people who have played these five games have been sitting on the bench for two months or so…”
Kohli was right. Amit Mishra, who has been cooling his heels since the rise of R. Ashwin, deserved a go after his superlative IPL performances and so did Mohit Sharma. Ambati Rayudu, who hit a self-destruct button a decade ago, finally made his debut and Cheteshwar Pujara had his claim well backed up thanks to a series of extraordinary Test performances.
That’s the dilemma. A team can have fifteen in the squad but can only field eleven of them. Being on the bench is tough, extremely tough. Perhaps it’s mentally more challenging and emotionally exhausting to play the part of a “Sub”. Being a reserve player takes equally the same amount of grit, determination, guts and discipline than that of a regular starter.
However, there are a couple of things more that act on the psyche of a “sub” – disappointment and humiliation. You make the team. You sweat it out in the practice sessions; hone your skills by taking those extra throw-downs, increase your stamina by running that bit extra on the treadmill and then when the team sheet is drawn, you draw a blank.
When the team jogs on to the park, you put on your glares, wear the “sub-vest” on your jersey, find a cozy corner in the bench and put your feet up to watch the action. And then when your captain says -“We had a set bowling combination and we didn’t want to make any changes to that. It was unfortunate he didn’t get a game, but it just didn’t go according to our plans.” – It hurts!
How do you handle a situation that screams out loud – you’re talented but do not deserve to play in the first eleven? Being a part of the team involves every player to be ready to accept the role that’s been allotted but what do you do, when that so-called “role” that you’re supposed to play is “not playing” at all?
Go figure that one out!
Being a part of a competitive team brings along a few some unpleasant realities. While performances might get a rookie into the squad, it doesn’t always guarantee playing time. Playing time is a privileged affair but being on the bench, actually, tests the commitment of an athlete to the team and to the sport itself. That’s sports for you. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, things might not always go your way.
In fact, most times they won’t!
Rasool has had a tough life. It’s not easy to steal the attention of the national selectors hailing from a sensitive state. It’s not easy to perform when you’re subjected to be checked by sniffer dogs and labeled a terrorist when all that you want is to play cricket.
But India caps are not handed out based on sentimental reasons. Yes, we hail from a country where selections are dependent on zonal biases and not-so-worthy players have often donned that blue blazer but Rasool wouldn’t want to be a part of that clan. He would rather wait than be branded as one of those who represented India, thanks to the quota system.
Rasool must have felt like a fifth wheel that made no significant contribution to the team’s cause. He might have felt like an unimportant and unnecessary addition to the team but the experience on the bench has done more good to him than he can realise now.
Sitting on the bench, he must have realized the difference between selected and actually playing for the national team. Just being in that Indian dressing room with the likes of Kohli and Fletcher should do him a world of good.
The continuous work-outs and drills of Trevor Penny and the tips from Joe Dawes must have sharpened his skills and it also must have helped him recognize that there are people with superior abilities and that must have helped him to figure out the areas he needs to work on.
The people back home may be disappointed but as he travels to South Africa as a part of India A, Pervez Rasool might just be that bit more determined to prove his worth against much tougher foes.