In the Indian cricket fraternity's top echelons, criticism of any kind is always hush-hush in the contemporary clime. Ever since the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wielded its axe on overly critical commentators, which led to the temporary disappearance of someone of the stature of Harsha Bhogle, one doesn't get to see a lot of dissent on the airwaves or on print.
Thus, legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar's unprecedented take-down of the Indian selectors in a column was a refreshing change, whether one agrees with the content and tone of the critique or not. It is not often that you get to see a former star lambast the system and also bring into focus the supposed shortcomings of the leader and star batsman of the team, Virat Kohli.
What he said
The crux of Gavaskar's critique was that the selection panel, led by former wicketkeeper MSK Prasad and featuring other former cricketers Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjpe were lame ducks for not even entertaining a discussion regarding Kohli's position as captain of the squads traveling to the Caribbean isles, despite India failing to fulfill their potential at the World Cup and crashing out at the first knock-out hurdle.
He also pointed out that it sent the wrong signal to the nation, as under-performing players like Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik were dropped, but the captain seemed to be above scrutiny. He also lashed out at the lack of 'stature' of the selectors who have only played 13 Tests between them.
Why it's important
Firstly, the straightforward manner of his criticism is something scarcely seen in Indian cricket and one that the cricketing circle is in need of. He is right to point out that the captain, despite his stature, cannot be above procedure and needs to be held accountable for the results of the team. Just like non-performing players are dropped, the captain should also, at the very least, be apprised of the shortcomings of the team.
It seemed the selectors did not send out any message to Kohli despite the heartbreaking semi-final exit and that particular aspect is rather worrying. While the coach's job is on the line, the captain's position seems to be above questioning right now and that shouldn't be the case.
Even if it is the right call to continue with Kohli, due procedure and accountability is always the need of the hour and a personality cult around a star is never desirable.
Why it's problematic
Thereafter, comes the legend's below-the-belt attack on the committee who lack 'stature' because they have very little experience at the Test level. MSK Prasad's repartee to the above statement to PTI pointed out examples of Ed Smith and Trevor Hohns, who occupy senior positions in the English and Australian cricket set-up respectively and have had former star players working under them.
His point is that every job has its own demands and Test pedigree doesn't always ensure that one has great acumen as a selector.
However, what Gavaskar was trying to say is that Prasad and Co. might be a little intimidated by the huge personalities in the Indian dressing room and thereby deferential to them.
Yet, his calling out of their stature is a poor strategy and reveals the inherent prestige system that runs rampant in the Indian set-up and that, ironically, leads to the system of personality cult that he was critical of.
It is time that legends and current national cricketers stop evoking records and stats for every cricket-related job, be it selection or commentary, as they do have related, but divergent demands. While Gavaskar may have made the right point, he chose the wrong process to go about it.Published 30 Jul 2019, 20:30 IST