'Where do you leave a boy like Hiten, whose parents are not heavyweight politicians? He scores runs and someone's parent just writes a letter that he is fit, doesn't play a match and is in the team'
He hasn't played a single match this season but controversial Bihar politician Pappu Yadav's son Sarthak Ranjan has walked into Delhi's T20 side for the Mushtaq Ali tournament, which has surprisingly kept under-23 top-scorer Hiten Dalal in the reserves.
Pappu Yadav, whose official name is Rajesh Ranjan, is a former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) politician and MP from Madhepura. He has now floated his own party Jan Adhikar Party while his wife Ranjeet Ranjan is a Congress MP from Supaul.
The three-member selection committee, comprising Atul Wassan, Hari Gidwani and Robin Singh Junior, has drawn flak from all corners for ignoring some of the performers and selecting an influential person's son, who at the start of the season, had almost given up on the game.
Sarthak was also a controversial pick for Delhi during the last Mushtaq Ali campaign, during which he scored 5, 3 and 2 aggregating 10 runs in three games.
At the start of the season, Sarthak withdrew himself after being named in the Ranji Trophy probables list.
There were conflicting reports that he had lost interest in the sport and was pursuing body-building (to prepare for Mr India contest).
During the end of the season, Sarthak's mother Ranjeet Ranjan wrote an e-mail to DDCA administrator Justice (Retd) Vikramajit Sen that her son was earlier suffering from depression and but was now fit to play.
As per protocol, Justice Sen forwarded the letter to the selectors as it was their domain.
Just like that, without playing a single match, Sarthak was put into the standby list of the Delhi U-23 team playing the CK Nayudu Trophy.
When Wassan was asked about this, he said: "Sarthak had some mental issues. Once he was deemed fit, I personally monitored him and kept him in the standbys as Delhi U-23 was playing really well."
However, what has raised a lot of eyebrows is the fact that after Delhi emerged U-23 national champions, their top scorer Hiten Dalal was ignored and kept on standbys after a stupendous season.
Dalal scored 468 runs in the CK Nayudu Trophy, including one century, three half-centuries at an average of 52 and a strike rate of 91.58. He, in fact, hit 17 sixes in the longer format.
"The selection committee has been entrusted with the job and we believe they have done their duty without any pressure. The boy in question (Sarthak), I feel, is attracting some attention because of who his father is.
"But I have no information that selectors were under any kind of pressure," Justice Sen told PTI when asked about Ranjan's controversial selection.
There is a school of thought in the DDCA that with IPL auctions due on January 27-28, a lot of players, who don't deserve to be in the state team, have made it only to ensure that they are somehow picked by franchises in the lowest bracket.
"Where do you leave a boy like Hiten, whose parents are not heavyweight politicians? He scores runs and someone's parent just writes a letter that he is fit, doesn't play a match and is in the team," a senior DDCA official, who keenly followed the victorious U-23 team coached by Rajkumar Sharma (Virat Kohli's coach), said on condition of anonymity.
"And what exactly about monitoring is Wassan talking about? He just came for one U-23 session, wanted to watch Sarthak bat and put him in the standbys.
"Agar inka bas chalta toh usko team daal dete, without performance. Just because the team was doing well, they couldn't tinker with it," the official alleged.
Another questionable selection is Kshitij Sharma, who was picked on the basis of good performances in the Lala Raghubir Trophy -- a tournament that is played at the Modern School Barakhamba ground with a 30-yard boundary on either side.
Sharma is believed to be a candidate of a DDCA veteran, who always had a say in selection matter of state's senior as well as age-group teams.
Image: Bihar MP Pappu Yadav