Dravid to Iyer, Ishan: ‘Score runs, force selectors to pick you’

India

Play domestic cricket, score runs and force the selectors to pick you again. This is India head coach Rahul Dravid‘s simple message to Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan, on whom there has been much spotlight over the past two months for their decision to skip domestic cricket.

Both Kishan and Iyer were not considered for the BCCI’s annual retainers in this round of recommendations for 2023-24. A board release at the time of announcement late last month reiterated its recent stance that “all athletes give precedence to participating in domestic cricket during periods when they are not representing the national team”.

Kishan hasn’t featured in any form of cricket under the BCCI’s ambit since opting out of the two-Test series in South Africa. He had, instead, been training at a private facility for some time in Baroda with Hardik Pandya, his IPL captain.

Iyer, who was left out after the second Test against England, missed the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals citing back spasms, even though he was medically passed fit by the board’s doctors. Iyer has since returned to play for Mumbai in the semi-finals and is due to play in the final starting Sunday.

“They’re always in the mix,” Dravid said after India’s 4-1 series win over England in Dharmsala on Saturday. “Everyone who’s playing domestic cricket is in the mix. Firstly, I don’t decide contracts, right? Contracts are decided by the selectors and the board. I don’t even know what the criteria are. I’m involved in – people ask me my opinion on the 15, and me and Rohit select the XI. That’s how it works.

“We’ve never discussed whether somebody has a contract or not, whether he’s going to be selected in the 15. There are enough examples of people playing different formats of the game, whether they have contracts or not.

“I don’t even know sometimes what the list of the contracted players is, when we take these decisions, discussions on the 15 or the playing 11 for that matter. No one’s out of the picture, no one’s out of the mix, it’s just a question of hopefully them getting back and fit, playing cricket, and forcing the selectors to pick them again.”

Minutes after India’s win, BCCI secretary Jay Shah announced a Test Cricket Incentive Scheme that will increase match fees of players by 300% should they feature in over 75% of the Tests played in a season.

Dravid emphasised on the need to look at this step as a “reward” for hard work and not necessarily just think of it as a financial gain for being available to play Tests.

“I really hope money is not going to be the incentive to play Test cricket,” he said. “It’s just nice the hard work and how tough Test cricket can be is being recognised. So, I wouldn’t see it as an incentive to make people play Test cricket, I hope not. I hope it never really comes to that. But I think it is just probably a recognition that this is a tough format, and it is a hard format.

“And it takes a special person to do what [R] Ashwin has done, to play 100 Test matches. You go through a lot, and rightly so. You guys [media] celebrated Ashwin today, and Jonny Bairstow, you’ve celebrated Stokes a few games ago. Because I think all of you recognise how challenging the format is and what it takes to be able to have consistency and to be able to survive the test of time in this format.

“We don’t celebrate 100 T20s in the same way, do we? But yeah, it is nice that the BCCI is recognizing it… I think it is a reward, not an incentive. Looking at the guys who came in and played in this series, I think everyone wants to play Test cricket. It’s just a recognition of what you need to be able to do to survive and play in Test cricket.

“It’s only when you get here that you realise that sometimes it’s quite tough and it is not easy, but it is extremely satisfying. In especially a series like this and Test matches we’ve seen in the last 4-5 months, if they are well supported and well documented by people like you, I am sure that there will be a lot of people still wanting to play Test cricket.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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