Answer to a trivia question or much more?

To be or not to be a trivia question, that is the question Parveez Rasool is now faced with.

Updated: August 05, 2013 11:03 IST
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The Wikipedia entry for Sunil Valson goes: "... selected for the 1983 World Cup but never received a chance to play in the tournament. Unfortunately, he never represented India in any international game and remains the answer to the famous trivia question as to who was the only player in India's 1983 World Cup squad who did not play a single match."

I saw this on my nephew's wall the other day with little jokes flying around. Now, I know Mr Valson to be a genial middle-aged man who has a good cricket brain and interesting thoughts to offer. So it set me thinking about this whole trivia question business. It's something so many cricketers, and others, become. Who knows - do they like being one? Surely a Sunil Valson would rather be known as a good medium pace bowler, a left-armer at a time when India didn't have many left-arm speedsters to choose from. But having failed to become the famous cricketer he must have tried to be, is it so bad that he is a trivia question everyone knows the answer to?

It depends, I guess.

Eric Hollies, for example, took over 2,000 first-class wickets and played 13 Test matches for England, but is best known, or only remembered, for bowling Don Bradman for a duck in the great man's last Test innings and preventing him from retiring with an average of over 100.

The Wisden Cricketers' Almanack noted in its obituary about Hollies: "It was a great enough distinction to have bowled Don Bradman for a duck in his final Test innings, yet to remember Eric Hollies for that alone would be like seeing Chaplin as no more than a tramp who once made a dramatic meal of a boot."

True that, but that's what Hollies is after all these years. A cricketing tramp of sorts, whose most memorable delivery was received with deathly silence, and then cheers for the vanquished Don, at The Oval back in August 1948.

To be or not to be a trivia question, that is the question Parveez Rasool is now faced with. I can just see the question framing itself: when India won a bilateral ODI series 5-0 for the first time overseas, who was the only member of the squad to not get a game?

It would be ironic, of course, given that Rasool is already a piece of trivia because of where he comes from. He was an instant topic of discussion.

Top scorer and top wicket taker for Jammu & Kashmir in the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy, he is a perfectly decent batsman and bowler, the second of which he proved with a spell of 7 for 45 against the visiting Australians, representing Board President's XI earlier this year.

He has been on the periphery of the national team ever since, but one must ask if he deserves to be in the team itself. Under normal circumstances, with R Ashwin the first choice, Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra around, and Ravindra Jadeja, well, being Ravindra Jadeja, it's unlikely Rasool would have earned himself a blue shirt right now. It's incidental that India had a tour of Zimbabwe scheduled and equally incidental that a number of first team regulars were rested for it. So Rasool shouldn't really feel hard-done-by. (Nor should Omar Abdullah, for that matter). Unless Rasool looks at Mohit Sharma and asks: what's he got that I ain't?

Now I am not saying that he should definitely have been picked in the playing XI, but this would be a fair question, you know. After all, with the series in the bag at 3-0 and then 4-0, Mishra, or even Jadeja, could have made way for Rasool.

But it's a tricky debate. Should India caps be handed out so easily? If you point to Mohit, irrespective of what he did after getting a go, the discussion is over. Otherwise, the answer must really be 'no'. Even if it was against Zimbabwe.

Which brings us to the second question, something that a lot of people have mentioned: what is the point of selecting players like Rasool against Zimbabwe if they are not going to get a chance? But then again, what could the selectors possibly learn about Rasool by watching him bowl against Zimbabwe, who have looked totally ill-equipped as a batting unit in the series?

Truth is that Rasool, despite his obvious all-round talent, is some distance away from India Standard at the moment. He's just 24. He has time. If the Zimbabwe experience pulls him down, it will be unfortunate. But if he can put together all that he has done so far, add the plusses of spending time with the Indian team to it and build on it, he might just have what it takes to become an allrounder that Indian cricket can take seriously in the months and years to come.

At the moment, Rasool is just a footnote, that trivia question. It is up to him to prove that he can be more than just that.

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