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Sight Screen

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

And on the selection panel

And in continuation of the previous post....Jai also had also asked about Prem's opinion on the new selection panel...and here is Prem's reponse on that one, which again I found worth posting here in full


The selection panel: There are actually two issues here. Firstly, the fact that most of the new entrants have not had much international experience is being framed in context of Sourav Ganguly – which underlines my central premise, that these days, pretty much everything has to be viewed through the prism of one player.

Sanjay Jagdale, for instance, first became a selector in either 2002-03 or 2003-04 (I am typing these responses on the fly without doing any search, so can’t pin the date down off hand. I do remember that in 2003, when Dalmiya won re-election, Jagdale (as also More, Roy etc) were among the selectors he immediately reconfirmed. And consensus at the time was that SJ was one of the better selectors we have had. Strangely, no one ever fussed about his cricketing credentials then – but now, his re-entry is greeted with a hue and cry? Is that because of his credentials, or because of some mystical connection with the SG affair?

Interestingly, throughout last year, no one has ever had any comment to make on VB Chandrasekhar, no questions were asked about his international credentials – which are actually less than Bhupinder Singh; VBC has played ODIs, BS has played both Tests and ODIs. Not much of either, sure, but like I said, more than VBC.

All of this leads to my primary point – we really have to stop obsessing about SG and tying everything that happens to him; it does SG, more than anyone else, a disservice.

One final thought: Every media report that emerged following the selection of the Test team made one point – that Pankaj Roy and the two Sharmas worked, from the start, with the one point agenda of bringing SG into the Test team. Let us leave out the question of whether SG needed to be included or not for the time being (not ducking the question, merely focusing on the one under discussion).

So, put bluntly, here you have three selectors who, from the outset, worked with a one point agenda. SG has to be picked. Drop VVS if you have to. Do whatever, but pick SG.

Is that a fair description of what happened? If yes, what is your honest assessment of any selector or selectors who come into a meeting with such closed minds (again, forget SG – we are now discussing the process of selection). In the end, what exactly did this troika accomplish? Put bluntly, the complete humiliation of Sourav. No one – NO ONE – would really have been in a position to argue, had the selectors come out and said, okay, we picked SG as a batsman because he hasn’t done anything, in his last Test series, to warrant his omission; he has a tremendous record as a cricketer and leader and in all fairness and in the interests of natural justice, this team and this country owes him a chance to show that earlier form slump was merely a blip, and that he still has what it takes.

That statement was what the committee OWED Sourav. Instead, what did they dish out? We considered Zaheer Khan and Sourav Ganguly, and decided to drop Zaheer and pick Sourav since the latter is an all rounder!!!???

Excuse me? Does such crap really do honor to a player of Sourav’s stature – or does it signal that SG got in through the back door? I doubt SG would personally have ever asked the selectors to get him in by WHATEVER means; had he been consulted before coming up with this ludicrous pick, he would IMHO have gone thanks, but no thanks – he is a proud guy, conscious of all he has achieved, and this crap did him no favors whatever.

That in sum is what the three guys who have been dropped have in reality achieved. In doing that, they have shown that they are amenable to outside voices. We spend all our time carping of selectors who buckle under regional, or other forms, of pressure – and now make martyrs out of a bunch that clearly did just that? Why precisely are we mourning their exit again?

There is of course a larger question – do I agree with the composition of this selection committee? Of course I don’t, dammit – starting 1996 when I first started writing on cricket, I have consistently argued that the entire structure of the committee is flawed; that (1) you cannot pick zonal selectors and still expect them to represent national interests and (2) that a committee whose components are depenedent on annual election results can never be counted on to do the right thing, as opposed to doing what ensures their own survival.

I have, too, suggested what to my mind is the ideal solution. We have a large roster of players who have played both forms of the game; within that, we have any number of players of proven integrity. My selection panel will be two-layered. The top layer, which actually picks the teams, will be comprised of three former India internationals who have (unlike VBC and even Gopal Sharma, for that matter, more than token expertise. These men would be picked with care, and given at the least a three year tenure (with the codicil that bad performance would entail dismissal); they would be paid to do the job they have been given, not have to fudge accounts to make money.

Below that is the second, equally important tier – of five former India internationals who will serve not as selectors, but as talent scouts. At least two of them will mandatorily be present at every domestic game; at least one national selector ditto. At the end of each game, the scouts and the national selector will need to draw up a comprehensive report on all the players, pros and cons; this needs to include recommendations for future action (for instance, if you spot an Ambati Rayudu who has in the past done well but seems to be fading, the obvious recommendation would be that the BCCI cricket committee talk to the lad, find out what his problems are, see if they can be resolved, and ensure that he gets what he needs, by way of coaching/a trip to some foreign academy/the sorting out of problems within his zone/whatever, so that his potential, underlined earlier, is not squandered.

These reports would go into a central database available to all selectors and to the captain, coach and other members of the team management, so that when they come for the selection meetings, all are well informed about the options available out there.

There is more, but that is an outline. And IMHO, that takes much of the current heartburn out of the process of team selection. In the interim, to moan that a Jagdale has no international experience (a point no one saw fit to raise for the three years that he has in fact served as selector, unquestioned) is IMHO merely picking firing over a handy shoulder.


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