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Ten questions for the BCCI - Chetan Narula Column
by Chetan Narula
Oct 03, 2008
The month of September didn't witness too much action on the field, but there has been plenty off it. The BCCI has played out to be the perfect stage, hosting such an emphatic display of yet another comedy of errors. The whole saga of moving on from the debacle in Sri Lanka has given birth to a host of questions, all reeking of confusion in the ranks of the Board ahead of the most important Test series in some time for Indian cricket. Of course, no answers are forthcoming, as always!

First of all, why does the selection committee have to change at an administrative change-over? Yes, it has been the tradition, but at times, there have been digressions too. If you remember the last time a selection committee was changed, it was right before the 2007 World Cup and we all know how that ended. This is now regularly turning out to be something that might hurt Indian cricket in the long run. Cricket administration, or any sport for that matter in this country, is run by politicians, and an important decision like this needs to be taken independent of any such feisty gatherings.

If yes, for some reasons like the change in guidelines approved at an AGM only, the committee had to be changed, why couldn't they have done it after the Australia series? It isn't as if the previous committee had a proper term to fulfill. Maybe that way they could have brought in some consistency in as the old committee could have continued their good work for one more series. But when have the power mongers of Indian cricket seen any reason?

Now to the selectors being professional! Everything is very fine, the guidelines and the qualifications, and the money too. Just that when Australia decided to go in for a professional set of selectors, they reduced their number to just three, devoid of any regional bias. And yet, here in India, the five wise men continue to be nominated according to zones. Shouldn't that, given the new rules, be done with a better screening process, making it a bit more transparent for the millions watching with bated breath?

Furthermore, why aren't the selectors allowed to speak to the media? Aren't they paid professionals now with a liability to explain their actions? With the players muzzled too, it seems that the BCCI isn't interested in giving any rhyme or reason for its decisions. This leads to bleeding rumours about retirement schemes, backroom deals being agreed with ageing players and anything that suits the hungry media's wildest procrastinations! Just one thing though, if at all the VRS was going to be implemented, who was the Board going to ask after Dada? Kumble? Dravid? Laxman? Tendulkar? Surely the Board can't be that foolish!

This brings us to the perpetuator of this hullabaloo in the first place! Niranjan Shah, as one's memory recalls, has hardly played any cricket himself. The best he has done for the sport in India is be a treasurer or secretary to the Board. For which either there will be some trophy named after him when he's long gone, or his son will make it to some Indian squad, or both! But the question that goes begging is; who is he to start talking about asking the legends of the game in India, or anywhere for that matter, to reveal their retirement plans? A two pence for him: stick to the topic of the press conferences from here on, Mr. Shah!

If the selectors were indeed allowed to speak to the media (on assumption basis), they would also have explained why the need to include a 15th player for a home series? Usually the trend is to pick thirteen or at best fourteen players, to allow the team management a host of options. So, this is a case of the new selectors not having enough courage to put their thoughts together. (And that is putting it in very mild terms!) They needed a back-up pacer if the team decides to play five bowlers, and they absolutely must have an extra spinner in the team. So effectively Sourav Ganguly is the fifteenth man which makes this very interesting indeed!

Also, putting the middle order slot filled by Ganguly in perspective, Badrinath has been chosen as the extra batsman in the squad. So, why was he given the nod ahead of Mohd. Kaif? As far as one recalls, both the Test hopefuls failed to make an impression in the Irani Trophy. One school of thought says that Badri has been on the fringes for too long so he deserved this chance. The other school of thought says that the chief of selectors is from Tamil Nadu and since the man missing out in his place is Rohit Sharma from Mumbai, this might just end up opening a, time and again, mutilated can of 'zonal' worms.

And just how did Amit Mishra come in to the picture? Well, if the IPL hat-trick counts, a housewife could have done a better job taking three wickets in three balls. Indeed, he has bid his time in the domestic circuit, taking wickets at a decent average but there are ten other such players doing an equally good job. One can't simply just go out and hand the Test selection slip at will. There has to be some sort of consistency and there seemingly was nothing wrong whatsoever with giving Pragyan Ojha another series under the senior spinners' tutelage. Plus, whatever happened to Piyush Chawla?

Now, for the inevitable question, what if Dada scores like there's no tomorrow, in the two Tests that he's now been chosen for? This may be a matter of conjecture at this point, but in twelve days' time, two of those four innings will be over and none will be any wiser. If he doesn't score, all is hunky dory and the Board can get back to slicing his head off after the 2nd test. But if he does, what will they say then to the select few waiting with bated breath for that elusive phone call? What will they say to the man who they ridiculed in public for the umpteenth time?

Then there are the other questions about the preparation for the series. True, the previous selection committee didn't deem it fit enough to give Ganguly enough practice. And now that he's been chosen, he is suddenly on his way to Chennai instead of attending the boot camp at Bangalore. Same is the story for RP Singh. And all this when the Rajasthan Cricket Association is busy getting the opposition up to their paces! Will the BCCI ever learn?

With the season just beginning, expect no answers and even more questions to pop up as the Indian team goes about playing three important home series. It's going to be a very long winter!
 
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