Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan expressed bafflement over the continued omission of all-rounder Jalaj Saxena from the Indian Test squad, despite the veteran racking up numbers with bat and ball for close to a decade. Despite an injury to Jadeja, Saxena was overlooked with Axar Patel getting the nod.
For years Kerala’s Jalaj Saxena has been overlooked by the national selectors despite comfortably being the best all-rounder in the domestic circuit, but, despite the constant snubs, the injury to Ravindra Jadeja made close followers of Indian cricket believe that the 34-year-old would finally be considered. However, in spite of scoring over 2000 runs and picking close to 200 wickets over the last five years, Saxena was yet again overlooked for the first two England Tests, with left-arm spinner Axar Patel getting the nod.
This omission, many believe, is the final nail in the coffin for Saxena to potentially have an international cap, and the news is still undigestable for a fair few. One among the few is Saxena’s Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan, who wasn't able to believe how the all-rounder has been continually overlooked by the selectors.
“I don't know why he (Saxena) doesn't figure in discussions while picking the Indian Test team even when our main bowlers are injured,” Yohannan told Sportstar.
“He worked hard on his bowling during the lockdown. He has added things like carrom ball to his repertoire.
Saxena’s omission hurt Yohannan, but what came as an even bigger kick in the gut was Kerala’s elimination from the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. After being in the driver’s seat to make it to the knockouts after three wins in the first three matches, Kerala lost their last two to miss out on a quarterfinal spot by the virtue of NRR. The Kerala coach was left disappointed by the elimination, and rued, in particular, the loss to Jharkhand, where his side fell short by 4 runs.
“It was disappointing because we had played well in the tournament and posted victories over giants Mumbai and Delhi in back-to-back matches.
“Besides, we were in an excellent position to chase down the target set by Haryana, but the loss of Sanju Samson and Mohammed Azharuddeen in the same over, when both were well set and the asking rate was well under control, proved costly.”
One of the success stories of the ongoing SMAT was Kerala’s Mohammed Azharuddeen, who struck the second-fastest century in the tournament’s history, against Mumbai. It was only rendered possible due to the right-hander being promoted to open the batting, and Yohannan revealed that Azharuddeen was sent up the order since he is a ‘timing player’.
“We had taken a decision to play him as an opener. He relies more on timing than power, so I thought he would be more useful than somebody like Vishnu Vinod, who generates lot of power, at the top of the order. We always felt that Azhar had it in him to play a knock like the one he played against Mumbai, but he did even better,” Yohannan said.