A flight too early to NZ

Venkatesh Prasad, former India fast bowler and current coach of Uttar Pradesh, is not a happy man. With two of his best players, Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, disallowed from competing in the knock-outs of the Ranji Trophy, beginning Wednesday, as they will have to leave with the Indian team for New Zealand in the wee hours of January 12 for a set of one-dayers that will once commence only a week later.

Prasad, whose request to the BCCI to allow these Team India players was denied, is not alone in his misery. Had the Indian cricket board shown some foresight, then as many as six NZ-bound cricketers could have participated in the quarterfinals of India's premier domestic cricket tournament, bolstering their chances to proceed further in the event.

Had the BCCI spared a thought for the Ranji, these six players in question (Apart from UP's Raina and Kumar, Mumbai's Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, Bengal's Mohammed Shami and Karnataka's Stuart Binny), whose teams are still in the competition, could have left a day later on January 13 — still allowing them enough time to practice for the first one-dayer in Napier two Sundays from now.

Alas, it was not to be. So the competition, which will end on January 11, will only witness the regular India discards hoping to fight their way up the pecking order. Instead of Raina and Bhuvneshwar, UP's star attractions will remain Mohammad Kaif and Praveen Kumar, backed up by Piyush Chawla and RP Singh. And instead of Binny, Vinay Kumar — hoping to turn the tide following his recent misadventures for India — will look to hold fort as Karnataka's premier all-rounder.

The BCCI claims that its players, who have just returned empty-handed from South Africa, need rest between tours. But this could have been the perfect platform for the likes of Rohit, Raina and Bhuveneshwar, who did play the Tests in South Africa, to get their collective form on track. Also, their state sides have toiled away for the last few months to get to this stage. Any help from their national players would have only added to their confidence moving ahead.

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