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Sight Screen

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Of selection committees

A problem for journalists during the off season is finding things to write about -- so you are apt to see, at least till the team gets into a coaching camp, or something else of note happens -- the same interviews, repurposed and repackaged in a dozen different ways (what the heck, we journos are still not comfortable with greeting visitors to our site with a factual statement on the lines of 'Nothing happening in our world today; we have shut shop and are off to play' -- by way of an aside within an aside, why is it I never could rhyme when I wanted to, and find I do when I had no intent to?).
Instances of this abound -- Greg Chappell opened his mouth once or twice, and has spawned a good score or more of stories, each picking up a different point and highlighting that. News agencies are particularly adept at this -- vide the various ways PTI has repurposed Chappell's original interview, to give it a semblance of freshness each time.
We've also heard the John Wright comment on selection committees before, but this story on Cricinfo provides a touch more depth (it would, since the interview was given to Rahul Bhattacharya for Cricinfo's print big brother, Wisden -- read the full thing, it's worth your while and more).
The argument for a revamp of the selection committee has generally centered on zonal bias. Wright, though, puts an equally compelling argument on the table: continuity.

"Every year, generally, you have a new convenor and a different make-up on your panel, so the continuity is difficult. Sanjay Jagdale has been an outstanding selector and because his time is up he is no longer in that position. That to me just doesn't make sense.
"I feel that the system of picking your national selection panel may have done its course," he continued, "and I would urge the BCCI to study the situation. I have a personal opinion that it should be a professional position, the way it is in a number of countries. You can have the best coaching system and your best coaches, but if you don't get your selections right, you're making it very difficult for yourselves."

It's a telling argument. A cricket team today is a product, like any other -- when it performs, and achieves results, people buy into it; if not, not (Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, was at one time the observed of all observers -- today, thanks to age, injury, diminishing marginal returns, he no longer is, and that in turn has meant people no longer buy into him, and the products he endorses, as heavily).
So if you think of a cricket team as a car, imagine this: What if the car manufacturing company changed its research and development team (the selection committee, in cricket) every 12 months? What you would have is short term vision -- the successive R&D teams would tinker with the shape of the grille and the headlamps, because it has to do something to justify its existence; it would not however touch larger structural changes, because such take longer than 12 months to conceive and execute.
Same difference -- our committees with their limited life spans think series to series, where a professional committee, with an assured longer life-span, would think and plan for the longer term.
The calls for change have been constant; even, in recent years, strident. Do you suppose these calls will provoke change, though? Even that perennial optimist, Dr Pangloss, would be hard put to say yes -- the thing is, selection committee postings are one of the ways the BCCI keeps the member zones and key voters happy; if you want votes, you have to hand out goodies as the spoils of your triumph.


  • what you say about selectors is totally true. They need to be apointed for more than one year, and of course like anyone else, you can change one of the selectors if he doesnt perform.
    I doubt it will happen anytime soon though given the BCCI's record on accountability.

    Regarding the R&D anology, I think its a little flawed because a lot of R&D teams these days have short-term quarter to quarter focus for meeting the financial goals. A cash rich company like Google can have a lot of investemnt in long-term research or allow all their employees 20% time to play around with. But in automobile sector, there will be one research division (hardly any D can be expected from them), that will be working on next generation cars : lets say cars running on ethanol or hybrid cars. But the R&D division resonsible for development of their current model (more D and less R) (lets say camry for toyota) will be very much short term focused and their goal would be to increase the market share from x to x+2 or x+5 etc in next 2 quarters. They will tinker with features like size, shape etc and try to keep up with the latest styling trend.

    The same is true for almost all big mature companies like IBM, HP (HP has HP labs which hardly generates any revenue), but the active R&D team responsible for development of HP printer will be focussed on short term gains.

    Nehow, the analogy would be, having 2 sets of selectors, one monitoring the Indian team performance, and making changes depending on what the immidiate needs are, and other trying to develop talent at under 15 or under 19 level, players who can't hope to play for India in next 4-5 years but are promising. I am not saying this is the right model for cricket, but this would be analogous to most of the R&D model of technology companies.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14:05  

  • Istn't it the same as having zonal selectors ?
    The zonal selectors need to be provided the input from the state ( Ranji team ) level selectors.

    Why are we so focussed on under 15 and under 19 ?

    Are we saying that once a player has failed during under-15 and under-19, there is no way for him to progress ?

    This brings in the case for Sunil Joshi. He may be fit .. but he is overage ! Overage for what ? The fitness levels of the atheletes (including cricket) have increased. A good player can play beyond 35 yrs .. even approaching 40 !

    We should improve domestic setup to throw up better quality players rather than focussing on and pressurizing younger players.

    By Blogger Shekhar Kale, at 14:45  

  • Take a look at the Australian Selection Panel, Trevor Hohns has been on the Panel for 10 years and has been the Chairman for 9 years. In contrast Syed Kirmani and Kiran More have been in the hot seat for one year each. In the 4 member Panel, discounting the new appointee Merv Hughes who replaced Allan Border, the other 2 members have been on the Panel for 5 & 7 years!!


    Similar to our annual selection committee, the Cricket Australia Board of Directors appoints the National Selection Panel each year. But, they maintain continuity of the selectors. BCCI seems to have a new bunch of selectors almost every year.

    CA has a board of 14 directors who are appointed by the 6 State Associations. The bigger states (like New South Wales, South Australia) can appoint upto 3 directors. Selection decisions are approved by the 14 Directors based on the recommendations provided to them by the selectors.

    If John Wright says Sanjay Jagdale is an outstanding selector, then he should be on the panel for a long time. Why they hell would you remove the good ones? Goddamn zonal politics!

    Maybe BCCI should reward the zone with a handsome amount of money for picking a good selector, then they will continue to appoint Jagdale instead of playing musical chairs. Tieing it to money is the only way to make it more professional.

    By Blogger nish_the_dish, at 14:46  

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