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New selection committee must bring transparency to thankless job - Sunil Gavaskar Column
by Sunil Gavaskar
Sep 21, 2008
No other national sports federation's Annual General Meeting attracts the media attention in India that the AGM of the Board of Control for Cricket in India does. For weeks before the meeting, there are articles and calculated leaks to the media, as to who the flavour of the month is, and who the 'karela' is. The papers in different zones are interested in knowing who is going to be the next power centre in their zone, and this could mean an administrator getting a plum post in the BCCI, or someone becoming a selector, be it of the senior or junior committee. So they push for the one they feel is going to be easily accessible, and in a way controllable too. With the BCCI adopting the wise policy of having a President-elect, there is no 'maramari' for that position this time around. The Vice Presidents' posts too are pretty much decided by the zones themselves, so there should not be much controversy there.

It is as usual the composition of the selection committee that will engage most of the attention, and this year being a crucial year with the world champions Australia coming over for a four Test series followed by England, and the likelihood of places being available in the senior team, the composition becomes all the more important. India’s loss to Sri Lanka in the Test series in the emerald isle has opened up a debate as to the direction Indian cricket needs to take, and that’s why this year’s selection of selectors becomes such an important topic. This year also marks the beginning of selectors being paid for their efforts, so from now on the term 'thankless job' will have to take a tumble.

The BCCI had invited seven former skippers after the debacle of the World Cup last year to take a look at Indian cricket, and at that meeting it was suggested among other topics that a certain criteria be applied for eligibility to be a selector. Unlike other countries where there aren't so many first class teams, India has two groups and plenty of teams so the selectors have to be able to discern which performance is the one that merits selection to the higher grade. In the past when India's cricket was based on zonal lines it was alright to have a selection committee which had a representative from each zone. That the selector hardly ever watched matches apart from in his own city was neither here nor there. It was just a comfort thing for the zones to have a selector from their area but it made the selector feel pressured to push players from his zone even if they were undeserving of a place, if only to be able to show his zone that he was making an effort, and so should be continued with the following year too.

The BCCI accepted the former captains' suggestion of having criteria and for the selectors to be chosen by the entire Board rather than be nominated by the respective zones, but haven't gone the whole hog. The captains had suggested that having chosen the best five men for the job irrespective of which zone they they came from they should be sent to watch Ranji and other First Class games all over, so that they would have seen most if not all the players playing. Since Indian cricket is no longer being played on a zonal basis, but in two groups, the selectors do not have to be from each zone. In much the same manner as the officials elected to the important positions in the Board will be working for the good of Indian cricket and not for their zone, so also the selectors selected should be considered as working for the best of Indian cricket.

It will be interesting to see who the senior selection committee chairman is, for at the end of the day he is the one that is going to be the fall guy for the decisions taken by his committee. It's an amusing aspect of cricket and Indian cricket in particular that despite a decision arrived at by a committee; there is invariably someone who has to be either given the credit or the blame. In the case of an unpopular decision it is the chairman who cops the flak or the skipper if it is an omission of a favourite from the zone, but when it comes to praise then the whole committee is the beneficiary rather than the chairman or the skipper. The skipper may not have a vote but he will have an earful for being party to an unpopular decision and since all selectors have their own set of confidantes in the media, they will only look to blame others and act as 'sadhus' themselves when in all likelihood they were the ones to initiate the action that has attracted criticism.

In recent times, we have read how the team management, Anil Kumble and the coach Gary Kirsten have been blamed for the omission of Sourav Ganguly from the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy. This despite both not even attending the meeting. This is a classic case of passing the buck, but all too regular in Indian cricket. If the selectors did not agree with the team management, then they should have picked Ganguly, but why blame the poor duo of captain and coach? After all they have been given the job to exercise their opinion and not just agree with anything especially if they feel that it is not in the best interests of Indian cricket. Pointing a finger at someone entails having three fingers pointing back at you, but that doesn't matter to the mole who simply wants to put on the garb of the innocent caught in the cross fire.

Hopefully at the end of September, India will have a set of selectors, who will do what is good for Indian cricket, and have the courage to accept that like everybody they too will make their share of mistakes, but not blame anybody for it. It will be hard but nothing is impossible as we have seen in the past.
 
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