Gag order official, overseas tours cancelled November 19, 2007

Indian board seeks to squeeze the selectors

The board has issued a seven-point guideline to the selectors after Dilip Vengsarkar flouted an oral directive not to write in newspapers © AFP

The shadow-boxing between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the national selectors has escalated with the Indian board issuing a seven-point diktat that seeks to curtail the jurisdiction of the selectors. While the move is widely seen to be aimed at reining in Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of the selectors, there are provisions, particularly the one banning selectors from accompanying the team on foreign tours, that have caused dismay among his colleagues.

The prime target of the directive, emailed to the national selectors last evening, is Vengsarkar, who had recently been asked to show cause after flouting an oral directive not to write in newspapers. A piece carrying his byline appeared in Sakal, a Marathi daily controlled, interestingly, by the brother of Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, a couple of days after the gag order.

The written communication is unequivocal: "Selectors shall have no association with agents of players nor shall they participate in events organised by the players' 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." Vengsarkar is the only one of the five who has a syndicated column that appears in English through an agency.

Another point of contention in the latest ruling from the board is that selectors will no longer be required to travel with the Indian team on their overseas tours. The board recently introduced the practice of one selector being with the team on overseas assignments, but they have gone back on this. The note states: "The Board's constitution clearly defines the selection committee when Indian team is playing in abroad [sic] viz., Captain, Vice Captain and Coach. The Selection meetings will be convened by the Manager of the team. The provisions contained in the Board Constitution shall be strictly observed when Indian team is on tour."

One selector argued that this was unwarranted, and indeed detrimental, because attending matches abroad follows the principle of being present at home matches. "It's important for selectors to be on tour because that's the place we really realise which players are keen to play despite the conditions and which players are not so keen," said one selector on condition of anonymity. "Otherwise we have to go by what the captain, coach and team say and that's not ideal. The player should not just be trying to make it to the squad. He should have something to give when he's asked to perform in tough conditions."

The directive also mandates that only one selector shall be present at an India home match in an official capacity. The board had recently announced that it would pay the selectors based on the number of matches they watched in an official capacity, and this latest move comes in order to ensure that selectors do not claim allowances or pay for matches they opted to go to despite not being assigned to do so. "Only one selector should watch an International match played in India and who this selector shall be decided by the Chairman of Selectors who will prepare the distribution and convey the same to the Hony. Secretary, BCCI," says the directive.

Another selector who expressed surprise over this pointed out that it had always been the practice. "Are they worried about more than one turning up at a match and claim allowances?" he asked, "This shows lack of trust. And if they are so bothered about making everything official, why haven't put the so-called match fees on paper."

The directive also states that the selector shall not sit in the dressing room during the course of an international match, that he shall not write columns in print media or appear on television as an expert, that selectors will not address the press after a team selection and that selectors will attend more domestic matches, especially the Ranji Trophy, as per a rota that is planned and okayed at the start of the season.

Anand Vasu is an associate editor at Cricinfo