While an enthralling Test match between India and England is in progress, in a disturbing trend and situation, even with a rather rare public clampdown by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), players such as Ishan Kishan appear to be defying the diktat to show up for the domestic game.

Sole attention should have focussed on the way team India have had to fight back to establish some ascendancy in the ongoing five match Test series at home against England. Instead younger players like Ishan Kishan who have either not been called up or asked to return to domestic cricket, because they were not needed in the playing eleven, have chosen to stay away from domestic cricket, keeping the BCCI fuming under the collar.

Have the younger generation players now come to believe that domestic cricket is beneath them? And is this the direct effect of the Indian Premier League?

BCCI secretary, Jay Shah had to publicly state the issue at hand with Ishan Kishan not showing up for Jharkhand’s last Ranji Trophy match. “If you are fit then no excuse will be entertained,” Shah said on the sidelines of the third Test match in Rajkot.

“This applies to all centrally contracted players. They have to play. The player cannot decide his future,” Shah told reporters. “The selectors need to decide that. if the player is good at red ball, he has to play.”

“They have been informed on phone already and I am going to write letters as well that if your chairman of selectors, your coach and your captain are asking for it, then you will have to play red ball cricket,” Shah added while not mentioning any one player.

Kishan was apparently advised by current Indian coach, Rahul Dravid, to play domestic cricket in order to improve his chances for being selected in the longer format of the game.

Kishan was apparently granted a break from the game at his own behest following the ICC Cricket World Cup last year ahead of the series against South Africa but even then there was displeasure expressed from both, coach and captain, Rohit Sharma, at the time. With Kishan deliberately not picked for the home series against England, if conspiracy theorists have it, it was to show the youngster the seriousness of the matter at hand.

But that decision now appears to have backfired as Kishan has not shown up for domestic duty as desired. When Kishan returned home midway through the tour of South Africa citing the need for a break, it was expected he would show up for his home state Jharkhand who have thus far lost all matches but one.

Kishan was supposed to show up as wicketkeeper-batsman for the Jharkhand team against Rajasthan while the third Test was in progress. But despite the recommendation of the Indian dressing room that Kishan use this opportunity to work his way to red ball cricket, Kishan has reportedly claimed to be working on his technique reportedly away from the game.

While Jharkhand’s final Ranji match was in progress, Kishan was seen training with the new Mumbai Indians captain, Hardik Pandya, in Baroda.

Former international cricketers are showing empathy for Kishan even as the debate is now raging whether the Indian cricketers, especially the younger generation, is choosing the way of the IPL. The BCCI does not allow Indian cricketers to play in foreign Twenty20 leagues else, the issue might have snowballed even further and not limited to one or two players alone.

Incidentally, Deepak Chahar also did not show up for Rajasthan either, choosing instead to show up for training with the Chennai Super Kings ahead of the IPL 2024. While Shreyas Iyer’s name has also cropped amongst this lot of so called delinquent players, there are also reports of his ongoing injury issues with his back.

Will players be banned from playing in the IPL for skipping domestic duty?

The BCCI has put measures in place to curb the phenomenon from catching on. But it would appear that the move might have come after the horse has bolted. Could players like Kishan make a case that the rules were made and implemented after the fact and not before and therefore, appeal on grounds of not being aware and therefore, not guilty?

The BCCI has now made it mandatory that Indian cricketers must play a certain minimum number of Ranji Trophy matches in order to be eligible to participate in the IPL. With the IPL 2024 now just around the corner, it might be trickier for the BCCI to enforce it even if it wants to set an example.

Besides, can exceptions be made if players claim they have needed time away from the game, the BCCI did claim players could take time out for mental breaks, or that they need to work on their technique and not be playing in match situations, as is being stated in the case of Kishan? On what grounds will players be given leeway? Stature, reputation, form or other considerations and will it bring arbitrary rules to apply?

There has been an instance in the recent past where K. L. Rahul posted on his social media batting as part of his practice while the BCCI ruled him out as still recovering from injury. In the past too, there have been instances involving Rohit Sharma being seen with the Mumbai Indians while similar contradictions were presented with regard to team India.

While this incident is sending shockwaves, it is also beckoning of precedents being set, by the board as well as players who now have choices between how they decide to show up, particularly when they are not willing to heed the advice of the dressing room to work on their game when other options are on the table.

Some might call it that this is a monster of their making as far as the BCCI are concerned, given how the board has invested so much into the IPL and also, thrown the greenhorn players into the lion’s den as it were, early even before some of them had a chance to get their feet properly well in first class cricket.

Do players, in the age of social media, have the opportunity to then make their case if they were, for some reason, deliberately kept back from playing international cricket? Where does the BCCI draw the line between discretion and open dissension? And more importantly, could it have been resolved with a manner of clear communication both ways?