'You need to throw in unknowns in the ring' - More
It's back to business for Kiran More. His tenure as chairman of selectors might have come to an end but in a way he remains under the scanner as the players he, and his committee, backed walk out to perform each time. In the middle of hectic personal meetings More spared time for Cricinfo to talk about an eventful period in Indian cricket.
Do you feel relieved?
No, in fact I'll be under a lot of pressure watching all the players whom we backed and see how they perform. When you finish with a job it is not that you are done with it. I've been a selector for four years and backed so many cricketers, so obviously I am under pressure.
One of the positive features of your selection panel was that you went for young guns like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina. Was it a smooth policy decision?
It was always a collective decision. We always discussed intensely about the team selection, and we arrived at a name always keeping in mind what the team management wanted. I believed in pushing for the youngsters; if you don't do that you can never create a back-up and you are going to struggle. It takes time to build a team and then you allow it to grow. I relate the process to my own growth as a selector: in my first year, as a new selector, I would watch, observe and learn everything about the process. So, likewise, it takes times to build a good team. The other advantage of bringing in a youngster early into the international arena is that it makes him understand where he stands. By rubbing shoulders with his seniors, playing at the top of his profession, he understands how good he is.
So we decided early on that we will keep on pushing at least one youngster in the side, so that he will get an idea of international cricket and then we won't have the problem of filling in the vacancy in the national team when it arises. Otherwise there will be a huge gap. That is what happened after the 2003 World Cup, where we faced with a huge talent crunch and fought hard to fill in the gaps. You can see that international teams throw in unknowns in the ring and that is how they make them face the challenge. If you look at the Australian team they are pushing in four to five youngsters into the team because they are not looking at the just the World Cup, but they are keeping in view the next five years after the World Cup.
Earlier selectors weren't seen going to all nooks-and-corners of the
country to follow games ...
I thank the BCCI for the allowing us selectors to even watch [Ranji Trophy] Plate division matches in smaller pockets. People used to think that only the [Ranji] Elite players would get an opportunity to play for India. But now even players who competed in the Plate group are now playing for India - that is how Mahendra Singh Dhoni was picked for India. A combination of feedback from the junior selectors and the media coverage, in addition to the word-of-mouth feedback helped us make that extra effort to go to smaller towns and observe talent.
The other thing we did was when the Indian team would be playing somewhere around a smaller town we would bring in some upcoming talent and involve him in the net sessions with the seniors. Short chatting sessions with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Greg Chappell or the physical trainer would provide encouragement for the youth. That in turn would also sometimes help the team management to understand the level of talent that is around in the country.
|Irfan is just 21, who started to play for the country at 19. We are expecting too much from him. He has 91 Test wickets, as a batsman he is turning into a good allrounder. One or two bad series doesn't make him a bad cricketer|
You have been quoted as saying that the zonal system is OK, but yet so
often we have seen that it's the biggest problem?
It is a good way. I've always maintained that since India is a huge country, five selectors is a good number for the selection panel. There have been voices supporting a three-man panel - that can't happen as people will not have the time to scan 29 states, watch the matches to look at the domestic cricketers and then pick up the right people.
So is it something wrong with the way we pick our selectors?
The board is on the right track. If a player has enough first-class experience and is a smart guy, then, according to me he qualifies as a selector. As for the rotation policy, the board is now looking into the matter and they are trying to change a few things - now you've a two-year rotation policy and then a selector can get an extension of additional two years if he gets re-nominated. Now the selector is guaranteed his post for two years, so since his job is secured he can put in more efforts without being bothered about the short term factor. I am sure the board will think of appointing a committee that can choose the selectors, but it is upto them.
Is it sad that the selectors earn nothing?
I don't agree with the line of thought that if you pay money then somebody will become good. The selector gets paid his allowance and gets to stay at good places. He's also paid a daily allowance. OK, there is a loss in that we are not so much back home and we miss out on the family, but the board is trying to formulate ways that can reduce the selector's strain. Apart from all this it is a honour to choose players as a selector and to also have been appointed as the chairman of selectors. I don't agree that if you get paid you are more accountable.
One of the expressions used by Wright is that the selection process
was worse than horse trading ...
I don't understand what he meant exactly. Every selector has a right to give his opinion and he (selector) can back a player if he believes he is a good player. It is not a question of horse trading. If you are sitting in a five-man selection committee, and you are going to raise your hand for everything then I don't think that is the best way of doing things. Instead I believe healthier discussions make the best team. And results like reaching the World Cup final, beating Australia in Australia are there for everyone to see and reflect on if there is anything wrong with the selections.
You got embroiled in a controversy where a player offered you money. Questions were asked about why it took you so long to report the matter ...
It was an odd case that came out in the open. You can't generalise. It definitely was shocking and I want to forget about it. Things like this don't happen everyday. So, I was shocked, and I needed time to think as to what my next step would be. But we reported at the right time, as we felt that something was wrong.
Was it the only experience? I mean have you heard about things like this?
It is one of the sort of incidents that happened.
Is there a yawning gap between domestic and international game in our country?
Except for Australia, in the rest of the countries, the levels of cricket between domestic and international is different. The Elite and Plate pools have been working really well and in the last couple of years there've been many more result-oriented games than in the past. Things are progressing and the board is lending its helping hand so I expect things to improve much faster in the future.
What did you look for in a player then?
I look for class. When I saw Dhoni, I saw that class. He was not only talented, but he was smart. He looked like someone who could get out of situations against quality opposition in his own way. So we had to create some opportunity for him to play at the higher level. So we got him into the Duleep Trophy team and wanted to give him the chance to prove himself as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Thanks to one of the East Zone selectors, after lengthy discussions, who agreed to allow Dhoni to keep wickets instead of accommodating Deep Dasgupta. We could see Dhoni keep wickets since we had never seen him do that. Dhoni proved himself in that Duleep Trophy final in 2004 and got into the India A team that toured Kenya and Zimbabwe. The rest is history.
At one point you said Sourav Ganguly would never come back during your tenure, then you took back that statement. What's your stand now?
Absolutely, he can still come back. He has just been sidelined for one year, but he can always come back by doing well in domestic tournaments. I, or the entire committee, never felt that Ganguly will never come back anymore, and we had very healthy debates on that issue. People created a lot of speculation. In India if a big player is dropped it becomes a sentimental issue. Of course every body has a right, but we had our own plans.
How difficult was it drop someone like Ganguly?
It is always difficult to drop a senior player, but we thought of planning for the future. We gave him the time and then finally decided to go ahead. We were not looking for overnight success, instead we were trying to promote some youngsters to create and make more options available for the team. We now have eight to nine fast bowlers, three good wicketkeepers at present, two good spinners with Ramesh Powar playing, then without Sachin for a while our batting performed well. So it is good to know that our plans were yielding results.
|[Ganguly] can still comeback. He has just been sidelined for one year, but he can always come back by doing well in domestic tournaments. I, or the entire committee, never felt that Ganguly will never come back any more, and we had very healthy debates on that issue|
There's a perception that you allowed yourself to be led by the team management.
It's a team game and I believe you've to work together instead of howling and shouting. My captain is an excellent gentleman, has a cool head and knows what he is doing. The coach knows his job, the support staff know their jobs, and we as selectors make the right choices most of the time. I am here to help the team - it is my Indian team and I will do anything to help my team.
Shouldn't the captain and coach have a vote in the selection?
No, I don't agree. What is important is both individuals should give their honest opinions. Someone might have a differing opinion and we may still go ahead with the majority view even if he may be right, but that doesn't mean we had something against a particular individual or something like that. So next time that person's views are taken more positively.
Despite performing consistently how come Zaheer Khan kept getting ignored?
The statistics you are looking at are different altogether. And if you look at the opportunities we gave him, we gave him a fair amount. And now when he has been performing, the others too have been doing good. So just because somebody is doing well, it doesn't automatically book his place in the squad - he has now to wait for the right opportunity. Definitely, he has to keep performing and wait for the right time.
Then there is the curious case of Irfan Pathan. Does his indifferent form put pressure on the selectors?
Irfan is just 21, who started to play for the country at 19. We are jumping too early into conclusions. We are expecting too much from him. He has 91 Test wickets, as a batsman he is turning into a good allrounder. One or two bad series doesn't make him a bad cricketer. Definitely you can't take your place for granted, but whenever given the opportunity he is going to try his best to comeback and perform.
Nagraj Gollapudi is Assistant Editor of Cricinfo Magazine