Jalaj Saxena, who has won the Lala Amarnath Award for the best allrounder for two seasons in a row now, has expressed his disappointment that despite consistent showings, opportunities were not coming his way with the selectors not having picked him for the Irani Cup or India A teams during these years.
Saxena was awarded the honour at the BCCI’s Awards Night on Wednesday (March 8) for the 2015-16 season, in which he scored 588 runs and took 49 wickets to be the standout performer in Madhya Pradesh’s run to the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy, where they lost to Mumbai, the eventual champions.
He had earlier won it for 2014-15 too, scoring 583 runs and taking 17 wickets that season. In the period from 2012-13 to 2015-16, Saxena made 2485 runs at an average of 46.89 while batting in the top order, with six centuries and 12 half-centuries. He also picked up 111 wickets at 26.01 and a strike-rate of 52.55.
“The BCCI has given me this award two years in a row, and I’m happy that I could perform so well. I have been very consistent for four to five years and those last two years went very well. It’s a big honour for me and I’m thankful to the BCCI that they gave me the award,” Saxena told Wisden India. “At the same time, I’m also a bit disappointed because I’m not getting opportunities to go ahead, not getting selected for higher teams. I’m disappointed with the lack of exposure.”
Saxena pointed out that he hadn’t been picked for teams for the Irani Cup or India A either, despite such impressive performances. “See, my dream is to play for India. I think the Ranji Trophy is the platform to play Test cricket for India,” he said. “It’s the biggest domestic tournament in India, and if I’m doing so well in that tournament for the past few years… And not just in Ranji Trophy, I’ve performed for India A too and in the Duleep Trophy too.
“And I’ve got this award for two years but I’m still not getting any chances in India A squads or Irani Cup squads. It is a little disappointing, because you should go ahead based on your Ranji Trophy performances – to India A, and eventually India if you can make it. So yes, I am a little disappointed.”
Saxena was last part of the Irani Cup in 2014-15, and surprisingly didn’t feature in the 2015-16 squad despite his blockbuster season. His last match for India A was against New Zealand A in September 2013 in Visakhapatnam, the second game of a two-match series. Saxena took eight wickets in the series, the most on either side in two drawn encounters on batting-friendly pitches.
“That tournament went very well for me but after that I never got a chance in India A,” he said. “I haven’t played in the Irani Cup but I was in the squad two years back, to face Karnataka in Bangalore. So what’s the point of being the best allrounder in the Ranji Trophy and then not getting selected for Irani Cup? Or for India A?
“I don’t really know why I’m not being selected,” he added. “Because my job is to play. I’m concentrating on playing cricket. I would like it if someone tells me at least why it’s not happening and what is holding me back – so that I can work on that and become better. But I don’t know the reason I’m not being selected.”
Overall, Saxena has played only four matches for India A, and has a batting average of 30.75 to go with a bowling average of 28.18.
This Ranji season, Saxena battled a finger fracture after having moved from Madhya Pradesh to Kerala, playing in seven out of nine Group C league matches. He made 272 runs at 34.00 and took 20 wickets at 24.85. “What my expectations were, I couldn’t perform to that level,” he reflected. “But as a cricketer there is a process, and you do fail sometimes. Some of it is down to the injury also. In the first half of the Ranji season, I fractured my finger (left index) and I was out for almost a month. I think that affected my performances, but I’m still confident about myself that I can perform at any level.
“My goal is to take Kerala from Group C to Group A or B. That is my motivation and it is good for me as well if I can do that, because I will prove my worth then.”