Indian Cricket: Give selectors the credit
Outside the seventy yard field, the fondest punching bag across Indian cricket has to be the selection committee. Till today, their selections are allegedly influenced by nepotism, bias, preferential treatment and regionalism. The foundation for building good teams starts at the selection table. However, the selection committee has had its own history of being equally forgettable as well as memorable. John Wright seldom minces with words. He says, “Picking the right people is more important than coaching.” From the days when it was an honorary job, Indian cricket has come a long way by appointing a full time paid selection committee.
I have rarely seen selectors given credence for their master-strokes, but every time a player is picked from their zone and hardly lives up to the expectation, they would have to cop unabashed denunciation.
Sandeep Patil’s selection committee has been extremely imposing in their short tenure post World T20 in September last year. Like his inimitable self, Patil’s selection has been crisp, sharp, brave and fearless. I had met the man a few years ago for an interview. He exuded confidence in the way he spoke. He was brutally honest about his fear for fast bowlers and at the same time, strongly believed that the bouncer is hardly a wicket taking delivery.
Since the day Patil has taken office, he has been put under a test many-a-time and has come out successfully. While Sehwag and Gambhir looked a shadow of their past, he gave them an extended rope through the Tests against England and even in the ODIs against Pakistan. After a series of ordinary performances which led to an England series win at Kolkata, Patil and his men came up with some stirring decisions. It is not often you get to see seasoned Indian stars being dropped, and that too in a cluster. We started to see it with that selection.
India’s finest seamer, Zaheer Khan was axed for obvious reasons. Everyone knew Zaheer wasn’t performing, looked over-weight and less athletic on the field. Despite all this, Zaheer’s tenure prolonged more because Dhoni hardly had a quality replacement. But that shouldn’t warrant a place for the leading seamer, which is exactly what the selection committee did. Harbhajan looked out of sorts during the England series and his comeback was short-lived. Yuvraj’s selection, in the first place, was deemed emotional than logical. And so, when he failed to deliver at Mumbai and Kolkata, he was also given marching orders.
That Virender Sehwag hardly contributed with the bat in ODIs since his epic 219 vs West Indies was a fact everyone in this world knew. But little did Srikkanth and his group do to send the message across to the players. Gautam Gambhir had a very patchy form in the limited overs cricket and had not scored a Test hundred for 46 innings. When the new selection committee had to take the tough decisions on some of India’s favorite stars, there was no second thought.
Just like how he would have whacked a half-volley through the covers, Patil set the tone right by getting rid of India’s most successful opening pair. It is not often that Indian cricket will see such radical selections ) that had all the makings of a coup d’etat of sorts.
If axing India’s superstars was bold, brave and made a lot of sense, the selection of few Indian cricketers since the England debacle is also worth appreciating. The foremost of the lot has to be Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s selection. Like most other Indian fast bowlers, Bhuvaneshwar lacks pace, but swings the ball like a banana. He was called the better tempered version of Praveen Kumar. I don’t think many of us saw that coming. In the past few months, he has steadily grown across formats, bowling some sensational spells.
Ravindra Jadeja’s selection in the Test format still raises eye-brows. While he fills the all-rounder’s slot, he hasn’t yet answered the critics who point at his batting credentials. Having said that, Jadeja has been magnificent with his spin bowling in all the Tests he has played so far.
Murali Vijay had a very ordinary Ranji season between the two huge Irani Trophy knocks. What that suggests is anybody’s guess. To persist with him was a risky proposition, as we all saw at Chepauk why he is denigrated so much. His temperament was long doubted and that came to the fore at the Chennai Test. However, persistence paid off at Hyderabad and Mohali as Vijay came to his own. Decision-making for the selectors mostly is about identifying the right person for the job and instill the confidence in the personnel you’ve chosen. As with everything else, it would always take time for the seed sown to grow and display its real colors.
So far, the newest selection committee has made the right calls. With a lot of tours abroad being lined up, the panel will be at the helm to make the correct moves. The decisions taken inside board rooms will go a long way in the eventual result that the players would strive to achieve on the field. For starters, I hope Cheteshwar Pujara walks into the Indian ODI team immediately.