He may have been repeatedly ignored despite exemplary performances in the domestic circuit, but Jharkhand spinner Shahbaz Nadeem remains positive about an India call-up and said the current selection committee has assured him that he will be rewarded soon.
Nadeem has not made the cut despite being the leading wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy for the past two years and during the same period, the likes of Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Parvez Rasool have made the India squad across formats.
Nadeem understandably went into his shell after repeatedly being overlooked, until finding support from the existing selection panel led by MSK Prasad.
"I was very disappointed to be honest but ever since this selection panel took charge, I have started hoping again. All the members including MSK sir communicate regularly. It was not the case earlier. It is a very welcome change. With this approach, at least you know where you stand. They have told me that my time will come so I will just keeping working hard," Nadeem, who ended as the leading wicket-taker for his side in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, told PTI.
With a stellar show in the domestic circuit, the left-arm spinner has silenced his critics who said he uses too many "needless variations".
The 27-year-old no doubt is also a lot wiser now, having played 83 first-class games after making his debut as a 15-year-old in 2004.
"It is not that I have made too many changes in the last two years and therefore the performance has gone up. It is just that I have matured as a bowler, have started to read the batsman's mind better. There is a lot of difference in match preparation as well. So you can say all these factors have contributed to my growth," Nadeem said.
"And I still continue to use variations whenever I can but at core, I will always remain someone who likes to give the ball air and mix it with the odd faster one. The other big change in me is that I have learnt to bowl on different surfaces," said Nadeem, who still likes to call himself young but has earned the tag of a senior player in the Jharkhand team.
He has picked up wickets in all formats but his prolonged wait for the national cap has taken him to a stage where he doesn't have preferences.
"I just want to play for India. As you have seen, I have taken wickets in all formats," said the Bokaro-born spinner.
Any conversation relating to Jharkhand cricket is
incomplete without the mention of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The former India captain has started spending more time with his state team ever since retiring from Tests and has been mentoring the youngsters even when is not playing.
Dhoni most recently led Jharkhand to semifinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Nadeem had little hesitation in saying that constant presence of the charismatic leader has led to every player giving a bit extra on the field.
"I have known Dhoni bhai for a longtime. We have played U-25 together. He has not changed one bit since those days, remaining as humble as ever despite achieving so much. When players spend time with him, while it's travelling, dressing room or in the team hotel, it gives them a huge push," Nadeem said.
It was hard even for Dhoni's India teammates to reach him but that is not the case when he is playing for Jharkhand.
"He is available 24/7. Anyone of us can go and talk to him anytime. I too talk to him about the game but I never talk to him about my chances of playing for India. He just says one thing that I must keep improving and leave the rest to the selectors. And that is what I try to do," added Nadeem.