Ishant Sharma and VVS Laxman, who were part of the Test squad, reached India by January 30 and could have taken part in the Duleep Trophy semi-final matches that began on February 4. But they have not gone back to first-class cricket.
Rahul Dravid though reached India a little later. Otherwise, he too could have played. Only Abhimanyu Mithun and Wriddhiman Saha, the other members of the Australia-bound Test squad, returned home and are currently playing in the Duleep Trophy for South and East Zone respectively.
What will Ishant play now if North Zone qualify for the Duleep Trophy final, and he doesn't play. Otherwise, he might have to hang around till September or October to play a home Test match. Only the Indian Premier League (IPL) is in the vicinity for the fast bowler.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell argues that domestic cricket has lost its competitive edge. "The question is -- is your domestic circuit still competitive enough. If it's not, what's the point of playing? Obviously they would need to go and play some sort of cricket, but it's got to be competitive," he opined.
Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar felt that players such as Laxman and Harbhajan Singh have to grind it out on the first-class circuit. "I feel that there's no better way to judge if someone is getting back to match fitness and form. They must go and play first-class cricket. I am not sure why Ishant is not playing Duleep Trophy. Maybe, he has requested the Board for leave," he said.
Over here in Australia, Twenty20 captain George Bailey finished the second T20I against India here in Melbourne at 23:30 and was ready to captain Tasmania at 1400 the next afternoon. Ditto James Faulkner.
WA' Mitchell Marsh, who is part of the ODI squad in the ongoing tri-series, wasn't picked for the first one-dayer against India. Thus, he was released to play in a Sheffield Shield game against Queensland which starts today. He wasn't asked to stay back to warm the benches. In India, the domestic circuit just doesn't seem to have any relevance. In the current one-day squad, there are six players warming the bench.
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