Indian selectors: A bunch of confused minds?
It was Day four of the 3rd Test in the Border Gavaskar trophy. Phillip Hughes played a typically ugly square drive. In an attempt to prevent the boundary, Shikhar Dhawan dived, injuring his hand in the process. In the meantime, the Nation prayed: “Oh please, let Dhawan be fine! It is going to be pure torture watching the selectors make the same mistakes all over again.”
The medical report arrived, and Dhawan was ruled out for six weeks due to a fractured left hand. While the Australians celebrated silently, the wise men of Indian cricket hurriedly called for a meeting in a five-star hotel that the unnaturally wealthy BCCI gladly paid for. They discussed the various options available, and eventually took the easiest possible way out. They decided to recall Gautam Gambhir.
But the drama didn’t end there. A blood test showed that Gambhir was down with jaundice. So, the selectors had to convene yet again. And then, Sandeep Patil and Co. went for the second easiest option – Suresh Raina was given the nod. Had Raina injured himself too, would it have been Yuvraj Singh or Rohit Sharma?
Irrespective of the fact that Gambhir eventually could not be picked, the fact that the “wise men” of Indian cricket even considered him for selection speaks volumes of their disappointing thought process. After all, Gambhir is a man who consistently underperformed over the last three years. His recurring, almost predictable failures went shockingly unpunished, and every single day he took to the field was a continuous reminder of the selectors’ unfair magnanimity some of our cricketers seem to be blessed with.
However, the selection committee had to eventually give in to the cries of the nation. Gambhir was dropped for the Border Gavaskar series, and one billion Indians heaved a sigh of relief. And ever since his axing, he has done absolutely nothing good enough to merit being brought into reckoning. He did crack a fine ton against Australia, playing for India A. But does that one century automatically and instantaneously qualify him to be good enough to play Test cricket again, just about a month after he was deemed unworthy of selection? Does it compensate for the three years he donned India’s colours without contributing even the slightest bit?
A similar set of arguments is applicable in the case of Suresh Raina. He played the last of his 17 Tests in against New Zealand in Bangalore in September 2012. Then onwards, he has had an unimpressive Ranji Season, making only 304 runs at a substandard average of 33.77. Like Gambhir, he too made a century in his last first-class game, a 134 against Mumbai in the Irani Cup. Again, like Gambhir, Raina too has done nothing commendable enough to merit selection.
Despite being the best Indian bowler in the England series, Pragyan Ojha was forced to sit out of the first two Tests against Australia to ensure the selection of a certain Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan, who suffered from a hideous run of form in the few first-class games he played prior to the Australia series, was picked due to reasons best known to the selectors.
Why do the Indian selectors seem to enjoy taking steps in the backward direction? Is mental laziness an issue, or are they under pressure from sections (or people) best not spoken about?
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh – these are men who have been given a prolonged run. They’ve been given more opportunities than they deserve, and selecting any of them would be taking a step backward. All of them surely do have some years left in them, but they should only be picked when they have the backing of a solid domestic season behind them, and not the moment a player gets injured and an urgent replacement is needed.
Now, one must keep the context in mind. India is 3-0 up in the series. People say that this is the perfect opportunity to put some “revenge” into the “revenge series”. After all, how often is India in such a commanding position, they question. But while completing the formality of a whitewash may provide some temporary delight, it is building a team for the future that must be on the minds of the selectors.
So clearly, if there ever was a time, it is now. If there ever was a time for all the fringe players to stop warming the benches, it is now. There isn’t much to choose between 3–1, 3–0, or 4–0. Eventually, what is going to be imprinted in the memory of one billion Indians is the fact that the team they support won the series fair and square. And so, this is when the Ajinkya Rahanes, Ashoke Dindas, Parvez Rasools, CM Gautams, and Jivanjot Singhs must be given their due. There has to be some reward for a superb showing in domestic cricket, right? Their inclusion might make the team inexperienced; it might be the reason India don’t go on to complete the whitewash. But their inclusion will also showcase the fact that the selectors do possess the vision to look out for the future, and can look beyond a permanent set of underperforming individuals. Golden opportunities don’t come knocking twice.
John Wright made his approach very clear. He minced no words when he said, “Picking the right people is more important than coaching.” Unfortunately, it does not look like the selectors share his thoughts. One can’t say if someone’s the right man until he’s been given a chance. The selectors really need to start doing what they are paid for – scout for talent, and give them opportunities.