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Thankless spectators gear up for professional setup - Partab Ramchand Column
by Partab Ramchand
Sep 05, 2008
Accountability has always been an interesting subject for discussion and in what is seen as a move towards professionalizing the selection set-up in India, the BCCI has proposed several changes to the existing system. The most important recommendation is to scrap the existing honorary set-up, and pay each selector Rs 25 lakhs per annum. The BCCI working committee has also proposed that a former player should have been retired from international cricket at least ten years to qualify for the selector's job and that he should not be an office-bearer of the BCCI or any of its affiliated units. Currently, selectors are chosen on an honorary basis and only get a travel and dearness allowance, while many of them are also office bearers of the BCCI or other affiliated bodies.

By the end of this month then it is on the cards that a whole new set-up will be in place. But that will not change the generally hostile attitude towards them. Selectors have a thankless job. They obviously cannot please everyone and are sitting ducks for potshots. They never get any praise and are only criticized. But then some of the comments on the selection of Indian teams can be pretty harsh and uncharitable. Some time ago a website carried a scathing article terming the selectors as 'five blind men'. The piece was so lopsided that it defied logic, betrayed lack of judgment and understanding and went beyond all decent norms. But then it is always easier to criticize than to praise and these days, it appears more fashionable too. After all, every cricket fan is an expert when it comes to picking a team so selector-bashing is pretty common.

Selectors are aware that they are in a no-win situation. A few years ago former Indian pace bowler TA Sekhar, then on the selection committee told me that he was well aware of what awaited him when he was nominated for the post. "I knew there would be only criticism. So I just developed a thick hide and the adverse comments don't really bother me," he said. Selectors and thick skins have necessarily to go together.

In selection matters, predictably enough most of the players choose themselves. It is the borderline cases – generally two or three - that cause problems, heartaches and controversies. This is where the arguments and harsh and unfair comments start. And the critics' viewpoints are so one-sided that frequently one finds little sympathy for them. Their arguments generally lack substance and is nothing but nitpicking. Criticizing just for the sake of criticizing is something not to be considered seriously. The fact of the matter is that the media especially the electronic media have often gone way over the top when it comes to sensationalizing issues.

Do selectors ever receive praise? Oh, I suppose so in a grudging sort of way. But they are more remembered for their foibles rather than any bold choices or hunches that come off. Does anyone remember the selector who pushed 19-year-old Dilip Vengsarkar into the national squad on the basis of one dashing century against Bedi and Prasanna in the Irani Trophy game in 1975? Does anyone remember the selector who had the foresight to pick the relatively unknown Bedi, then only 20, on the basis of one good performance for the Board President's XI against West Indies in 1966? It was under the chairmanship of this much-maligned selector that both Chandrasekhar and Venkatraghavan were first given their India caps when they were still teenagers. Does anyone recall the selector who boldly gave the reigns of captaincy to the young Nawab of Pataudi, then all of 20 years of age, to lead the Board President's XI side against the visiting MCC in 1961? Does anyone recall the chairmen of the selection committees who picked the two most successful one-day teams in Indian cricket history – the 1983 World Cup and the 1985 World Championship of Cricket? Does anyone remember the five wise men – and I mean this in a complimentary way – who picked the Indian team for the 1971 tours of West Indies and England, tours that marked a turning point in Indian cricket? Who was the chairman of the selection committee when Sachin Tendulkar was given his big break at the age of 16 in 1989? Indian cricket has had examples of such inspired selections. Unfortunately these are hardly remembered but the selectors are lambasted for their mistakes.

However it must be said that in one aspect, selectors in this country are almost always guilty of and this is in hiring and firing without giving the players enough chances. Not surprisingly, Indian cricket has the maximum number of players who have played in only one or two Tests, or a similar number of ODIs. Sometimes the player is dropped even without getting a single chance to prove himself and this is really quite bizarre. If a player has class - and it is the selectors' responsibility to be aware of who has this special quality and who doesn't - he should be persevered with even if initial performances may not be very encouraging. Sadly, this kind of foresight has quite often been missing in the Indian selection process. It is to be hoped that professionalizing the set-up will help improve matters. On the other hand now that the selectors are being paid the criticism could turn out to be much more vitriolic.
 
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