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To Write or Not to Write?
by Suresh Menon
Dec 04, 2007
Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar is dragging the dignity of his office through muck with rare determination. For once, the cricket board's decision to tell him exactly where he gets off is justified. Vengsarkar has been suffering from delusions of adequacy for some time, and if he quits, it will be good for the game. His objection is to the Board's list of dos and don'ts.

The two most contentious are:
1. Selectors shall have no association with agents of players nor shall they participate in events organised by the player's agents or contribute articles etc. where such agents are involved. They shall also have no contact with organisations that have interest in the business of cricket in any form whatsoever.
2. The selectors shall not write any column for any newspaper nor shall they appear on any Electronic Media as an expert.

These are eminently sensible rules, and by objecting to them, Vengsarkar is merely revealing his own petty mindset. Things were coming to a head on India’s tour of England recently when the chairman of selectors made a nuisance of himself in the team’s dressing room as well as by playing one against the other in the classic fashion. This, more than anything else, hastened Rahul Dravid's exit from the captaincy after a successful tour. It also led the Board insisting that selectors would not be allowed into players' dressing rooms.

In India, anyone who has played cricket till the age of eight with a wooden stick and a rubber ball with wickets hastily drawn on the wall in charcoal considers himself an authority on the game. That being the case, you can imagine the authority that a former Test player brings to his opinions. Sadly, most of them speak in clichés and display a remarkable lack of understanding. But that doesn't stop them from 'writing' columns in languages they do not know.

By and large these are seen as harmless and merely increase the integrity of the columns that are actually written by those whose bylines appear under them. Men like Sunil Gavaskar, Bishan Bedi, Ravi Shastri, Sanjay Manjrekar and so on. Dilip Vengsarkar does not belong to this group. I remember years ago watching a game with him at Lord's, a venue where he has a special place having made three Test centuries there, and discussing this very theme of ghost writing. He was writing a column on the game then, or rather he was lending his name to a column. Nothing wrong with that; the extra money is always welcome, and if the readers lap it up, that's their problem, not his.

But as chairman of selectors, he put himself in a tricky position. There is first of all the moral question: should a chairman of selectors be allowed to comment on the team he has picked, for a column syndicated by a marketing firm which also handles some of the players? Selectors, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion.

Don Bradman once picked an Australian team to England and then wrote about the series there for a newspaper. It was unfair then, it is unfair now.

Vengsarkar himself has got into a tangle before when, as captain, he wrote a column against a Board ruling at the time. In typical fashion, however, the Board chickened out after making threatening noises. He was banned for six months - an impressive judgement till you realize that in those six months, India played no cricket!

The Board has been unusually kind to the selectors of late, granting them a match fee of Rs 1.25 lakhs per Test and Rs 65,000 per one-day international. Thanks to Vengsarkar's bull-headedness, the Board has decided to place curbs on the travel abroad and attendance at home internationals. The decision to scrap the current zonal system and have paid selectors appointed by a committee (and thus immune to the Board's notorious election system) is beginning to look more and more attractive.
 
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