Selfless selectors need of the hour

The concept of paid and professional selectors hasn't borne fruit.

Amarnath took his own sweet time to make his revelations. Virat Kohli’s fighting century and skipper MS Dhoni’s painstaking 99 against the Englishmen on Saturday made for great Test match batting, though the Twitter world was again abuzz as to what would be going through Mohinder Amarnath’s head.

The shift in focus away from cricketing action had been so strong in the lead-up to the Nagpur Test that there was a possibility of the Indian team losing focus on the eve of a big match.

My argument is that when you are playing sport at the highest level, all these are factors which have to be dealt with. Today, playing professional sport at the highest level means becoming inert to these to such an extent that even if each TV channel and newspaper headline is screaming, one can still go ahead with the job.

I guess that is what Kohli and Dhoni showed at Jamtha though Amarnath’s comments will not die down so soon.

There is no doubt Amarnath’s revelations have surprised everyone and it has suddenly become a matter of national interest as to how our cricket selectors can also get overruled when it comes to serious issues such as a change in captaincy.

What is surprising in Amarnath’s outburst is the timing, since if he felt so strongly, he should have spoken out in February 2012. Had the man — still remembered as a fearless batsman who could hook the most hostile fast bowlers — spoken out when this issue cropped up, it would have been more appropriate.

If Amarnath is telling us he was not aware that the Indian cricket Board president had the powers to overrule the wise men in the selection committee, it is very surprising.

Such powers have been there with the BCCI president for decades and N Srinivasan exercised it as he deemed fit.

The problem with sportspersons in India — past and present — is that when they speak sensational stuff, it is not always at the right time. What Amarnath is saying today would have carried far more weight had he said it in February when the selectors had met after the Test series whitewash in Australia.

Then again, if there was a call for Dhoni’s head, to have asked for his ouster before the triseries which immediately followed wouldn’t have been prudent.

I have said many times before that today Dhoni has no place in all three formats of the game. Yet, if you think any of the Indian selectors will take a call on his future or has the mandate to do so, you are wrong. As long as Srinivasan is in power, no selector will be bold enough to make such decisions.

Today, each Indian cricket selector is being paid so well, he will not make decisions which will make of the hour him unpopular. Sadly, Amarnath will be questioned about how he continued to be a selector till September and received all the payments due to him, and decided to become a whistle-blower after leaving the panel.

Amarnath’s case cannot be seen in isolation. Some of the other selectors from the same panel are also said to have not been in favour of Dhoni as captain. There, however, seems to be some kind of a mix-up as sacking Dhoni for failures in Test cricket in Australia could not have resulted in him being dumped as the ODI captain.

People in the Board would do well to groom an ODI captain keeping in mind the 2015 World Cup, but to have asked Dhoni to go in Australia after the Test bashing would have made no sense.

The way things are in the BCCI now, no major decision is going to be taken that easily. If anything, even the current selection committee headed by Sandeep Patil seems to be doing its job based purely on statistics rather than sound judgment of players on calibre. Picking Ravindra Jadeja as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh for Tests defies logic, since undue weightage has been given to domestic triple centuries against weak teams.

Cricket is not the only sport where we have people being critical of selection issues. In almost every sport, there are difficult selections and many times, they are illogical. Invariably, you will find that in team sport, there is more room to accommodate and adjust, unmindful of the repercussions.

Time and again, we have seen in Indian hockey how a player being picked or dropped makes us wonder what went wrong. If you take a look at the Indian hockey team which showed signs of resurgence in the Champions Trophy in Australia, it is clear that dropping seniors who were not performing has worked. And this was done after coach Michael Nobbs had pointed out that certain players had outlived their utility.

If you take the case of Indian shooting, none other than RVS Rathore went for the selection committee’s jugular as he had not been picked for the London Olympics. One quota place was being swapped and still Rathore did not make the cut.

Rathore, for all his maturity, doesn’t seem to have realised one thing — that once the selection policy has been made, you cannot change it.

Lessons must be learnt from the revelations which Amarnath has made. Indian tennis has also seen politics being played when it comes to Olympic selection in 2012 as the All India Tennis Association wanted to keep Mahesh Bhupathi out. With Rohan Bopanna also identified as someone who wants to create trouble, he also does not find favour with the selectors as that’s what the AITA bosses wanted.

At a time when there is so much churning in Indian Olympic sport as well, as a nation we would do well to find people who are ready to become selfless selectors.

You and I thought paid selectors would work wonders with Indian cricket. And since that has not happened, we might as well go back to the old system of finding at least a handful of former cricketers who want to do a sincere and honest job.” 

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