The dropped ’selector’ Jimmy Amarnath may have spewed venom calling the selectors ”a bunch of jokers” in the past: but such a salvo cannot be fired at Krishnamachari Srikkanth. Not that he did not have his share of bad moments in the hot seat as the Chairman of the selection committee during his two terms. Like his batting, an expression of his natural flair to smack the red cherry no matter what the reputation of the bowler who was hurling it at him, this Chennai talent often called the ‘master blaster’ and a contrast to his illustrious batting partner Sunil Gavaskar at the other end in his hey days as opening batsman, Srikkanth’s outlook as the chief of the selection committee was also ‘no holds barred’. He went on conviction about picking a player, within the boundaries of the thumb rules- form and fitness of the the candidate he was looking at with other selectors.
And he would blast away before television channel reporters whenever he faced them after a key selection committee meeting or whenever they would go to him for a comment about the performance of a team he had chosen. His reactions were all straight from his heart. And he would not hesitate to admit if he felt some part of the selection was erroneous. His comment to news persons after selecting the squad especially for tours abroad was ”we have chosen the best team”. Thus after the white wash Team India suffered on England and Australian tours (8-0 washout in Tests+), it was also the same, only it went with a rider saying the selectors could not help it some key players were injured. Perhaps those debacles on the England and Australian tours was the “lowest point”, so to speak, in this engineer-cricketer’s stint as Chairman of the selection committee
But the broad minded and positive cricketer he was, Srikkanth took it in his stride. Nor did he go overboard when Dhoni’s men lifted the World Cup in Mumbai last year after the ‘Kapil’s Devils’ first did so at the Lord’s cricket ground in 1983 when he himself had played a significant role in that triumph.
He, rather predictably, said that it was his best moment in the hot seat. It was his ‘open mindedness’ again that restrained him from reacting to strong criticism from ‘Dada’ when the Very Very Special Laxman announced that he was hanging up his boots after being informed that the Hyderabad Test against the Kiwis in a couple of months ago, would be his last although the Hyderabadi was named in the squad for both the Test matches. In fact, when reporters asked him after a selection committee meeting in Chennai to pick the ODI squad after the white wash in Australia if the axe would fall on Laxman or whether he would be asked to retire, Srikkanth merely said the decision would be entirely Laxman’s He did not lose his cool even for a minute.
But there were two instances when Srikkanth did appear to lose his cool when questioned about selection of the squad saying ” I am prepared to step down.” Surely, the BCCI head who is from his home town (Chennai) would have cautioned him on that. When that comment of his was flashed by the media Srikkanth (vulnerably) retracted his words indicating that he was misquoted. And he too had his dose of criticism of favouritism when the selectors picked his younger son Aniruddha for an India A squad. There have been a few colourful and at times controversial chairmen of the selection committee in the past in Indian cricket like say a Vijay Merchant or a Raj singh Dungarpur- the former noted for casting vote against the captain Pataudi (jr) and the latter for reportedly asking Azharuddin “kaptaan banoge”? But those who know Srikkanth well would say he was only colourful, atleast not overtly controversial!