September 9, 2000

Mixed bag from selectors once more

The BCCI at long last has made some welcome decisions and has sprung a pleasant surprise by following up on the decisions made. I am referring to the advertisement placed in various press agencies inviting applications for several posts. The most important decision is the one to appoint a media liaison officer. The credit for initiating this step should go to one of the office-bearers of the BCCI who seems to be chronically afflicted by an ailment in which the foot and the mouth are inseparable. Not that it stops with that particular office bearer but the chairman of the selection committee seems to be the recent victim of this ailment.

Chandu Borde, in the last one year has failed to realise that for the team to perform consistently, he along with his colleagues should be consistent. His remarks in the press meetings must choke his colleagues with embarrassment. The first selection meeting of the season always starts with an eye on the future but gradually the tendency to lean towards experience gets more compulsive as the season progresses. The probables chosen for the preparatory camp before the ICC tournament is the case in point. The omission of Jadeja, Azharuddin and Chopra was expected and the reason for the same is a matter of simple addition. While it can be construed as the best solution under the prevailing circumstances, it remains to be seen how long it will take for the selectors to make a turn about.

In the selection committee's defence it has to be stated that the job of an Indian selector is the least appealing option. They are blamed when things go wrong and they have to withstand all the pressure created by various people. The selectors do get a few things wrong but it is suffice to say that they are not allowed to do their job. These factors apart, some of the blunders committed by the selectors cannot be dismissed that easily.

The statement that there is no off-spinner around is nothing but a load of rubbish. The two highest wicket takers in the Ranji Trophy happen to be off-spinners- Kanwaljit Singh and Aashish Kapoor. Both of them have taken more than 50 wickets, which is an achievement. In the case of Kawaljit, it is unfortunate that he is too long in the tooth to be picked but the noninclusion of Aashish Kapoor is nothing short of sacrilege. He is just too young to be written off and the fact that only eleven bowlers have taken 50 wickets or more in a season is too strong a case to be ignored. Kapoor has enough cricket left in him yet and also has the potential to develop into a useful all-rounder. Compare this with the kid glove treatment given to the others in the fray like Harbhajan Singh and Nikhil Chopra.

Others who can consider themselves hard done by are SS Das and Murali Karthik. Das has been scoring heavily in the domestic tournament and he is one to be groomed for the future. Karthik obviously has been kept out, as he did not receive a much too flattering report from Hanumant Singh, the director of the National Cricket Academy. The point is that these youngsters should be repeatedly kept in the company of the best of cricketers in the country in order to learn the tricks of the trade quickly.

The selection of Kambli has evoked mixed response but I for one am in favour of the decision because he is experienced and deserves a chance especially in the absence of Jadeja and Azharuddin. Jacob Martin is definitely not a one-day batsman and one wonders why he has been picked in the list of probables. Sadagopan Ramesh has been treated indifferently with regard to the one-day format but he is good enough to be in the final squad. If Dravid does not get going, the captain can consider playing Ramesh at the top order ahead of everyone else.

Javagal Srinath apparently has made it clear he wants to play only in the test matches and his decision needs to be respected. Zahir Khan, the left arm medium pacer would provide the much required pep to the medium pace attack along with Prasad and Agarkar. The fourth seamer's slot will be toss up between Kumaran and Bhandari and it is going to be a tough call. Reuben Paul gets a break along with Dhaiya and Ratra and three keepers is one too many. Ratra is a good prospect for the future and one would struggle to put Dhaiya in the specialist keepers' category. Among the three keepers, Paul is a terrific striker of the ball, which may prove to be the clinching factor.

It would be interesting to see the course of events in the next few weeks, as a lot of decisions would have to be made. Considering that the AGM of the BCCI is fast approaching, one can be certain of only one thinga lot of things will be decided behind the scenes as usual. In case that does not happen, it will be the best surprise the BCCI can ever spring.