As Canadian cricket fans coast to coast are trying to recover from the heartbreaking performances of the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers in UAE, it begs the question- was this the best team they could pick?
The answer is not as simple as a yes or no. Let’s start with the leader- Ashish Bagai. He without a doubt is the best choice as a captain and batsman for Canada in all formats of the game. In most recent times, there are only a couple of players who have performed to an even acceptable level, those being Ruvindu Gunasekera and Jimmy Hansra. The remaining batsmen really have no right to have been there for the ride that long. It is baffling that players can continue to warrant a spot in the team and play year after year, without being challenged.
This conjures up another important question- are there better players available? The answer to that is- yes. Now without getting into a list of players from all over the country- I choose to look at the cases of two highly talented, proven and internationally acclaimed players Darius D’Souza and Nikhil Dutta.
Darius D’Souza represented Canada at the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand back in 2010, alongside a few of the current players in the national team. It looked as though he was set to join his teammates on the way up to national senior ranks- but something faltered along the way. Let’s analyze the possible reasons- Technical ability? Domestic league performances? Fitness? Desire? Commitment? Talent? Darius fulfilled all those requirements and still does. He has performed consistently over the last 5 years at the domestic level- even possessing better statistics than his peers in the national team.
What is even more astonishing is that Darius has been playing First Class cricket in England for Loughborough University against counties from 2011-2013. Two points come to mind immediately-
- a) He has not been lamenting or fading away since his last representative honours at the U-19 level, which unfortunately is the case for most players who do not immediately go on to play for the national senior team- due to the lack of a Canada “A” or emerging players development structure for that matter.
- b)He has been playing a higher level of cricket, in a more structured and intense program than most of the current Canadian senior team.
Darius, now 24 years old, was highly regarded by former coach at Loughborough and ex-England player, the late Graham Dilley. In fact, many of the coaches who have seen and interacted with him in England (both league and First Class level) often ask why he is not in the Canadian “set-up”, when considering the performance and ability of our current team. Canadian cricket must look at genuine cricket prospects such as Darius, who have been consistently overlooked and in a sense “thrown by the wayside”.
19 year old Nikhil Dutta, who has been creating a stir around the globe with his unconventional and unreadable spin, may have age playing against him. It can be said that the selectors and coach have been protecting this youngster from the harsh elements of the T20 game. The question is, why on his debut tour for Canada- albeit an exhibitional, warm-up tour- was he then thrown into the “lion’s den” to play against the might of the Trinidad and Tobago senior team? While Nikhil did go for runs in the first match, he bounced back valiantly to claim three main wickets in his next outing. In fact, his bowling in that series earned praise from the revered Trinidadian Daren Ganga, calling Nikhil the Canadian “Sunil Narine”.
Nikhil has gained praise all over the world. International cricket heroes have praised him. Saqlain Mushtaq who has worked with him on a few occasions has nothing but great reviews of his bowling. While in India in early 2013, Nikhil caught the eye of current England batting coach Mark Ramprakash, who promptly invited him to bowl to the England team. Both of these former international stars continue to follow his progress.
It is agreed and proven- Nikhil is “special”. The next question is “has he performed?” He has scored a century in the U-19 World Cup Qualifiers for Canada in 2011. He has taken key wickets against Kenya and Ireland at the senior level recently. He has always been a consistent performer with bat and ball in the domestic circuit over the last few years. So the answer is, yes. He has performed and he too like Darius is statistically better than players in the current Canadian team.
Another player worth mentioning here is Darren Ramsammy- he too a graduate of the Canada U-19 team in the same batch as Nikhil Dutta. Darren was chosen for the Canadian senior team to play against Scotland in 2012 as the frontline wicketkeeper. On his debut he performed credibly with the gloves. In the past 3 seasons, Darren has been recognized as one of the best keepers in the country- his selection on that tour proved that. Now, not saying that Darren should replace our national captain, and admittedly Darren needs to score more runs domestically to bolster his case. But the problem is that the young glovesman has gone from the national team to obscurity- all with no explanation.
The question as to why these players are not in the current team or even in the loop (D'souza and Ramsammy) still goes unanswered.
It is a critical time for Canadian cricket. Canada needs to qualify for the ICC World Cup. Players have hung on to spots without performing for far too long. If our national team was a club side, many players would be dropped and forced to play 2nd XI cricket until their performances warranted selection. Canada has a huge player base- but selectors have consistently made bad decisions to constantly reward sub-standard performances of the current bunch. This feeling of unchallenged security I believe is partially to blame for the player’s consistent failures. In addition, after having interacted with many of the national players, I question the attitude, thirst, the passion and the desire for these players to give their all and win for Canada. I do not doubt that the two players Darius D’Souza and Nikhil Dutta have that desire to win and serve our country.
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