India news July 9, 2011

Selectors defend Emerging Players squad

A section of the BCCI selection committee was unaware, while picking the squad, of the major changes in the format of the Emerging Players tournament in Australia in August. That may have led to a few contentious choices in the 15-man squad, the most controversial being Anirudha Srikkanth, the son of selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

For the first time in its six years, the Emerging Players Tournament has moved from being an event featuring Twenty20 and 50-over games to exclusively three-day matches. This information was not available to some selectors during their meeting when they believed they were choosing the second rung of India's limited-overs talent, and in so doing added in a couple of misfits.

Eyebrows were raised over Anirudha's selection but those selectors ESPNcricinfo spoke to stressed there was no pressure to include him, and one of them denied that Srikkanth senior had proposed the son's name. The selector said that during a previous meeting, when Anirudha's name had come up for discussion, Srikkanth had volunteered to leave the room. The current selection meeting however was conducted over the telephone as two of the selectors were in the West Indies when the team had to be picked.

"Anirudha's name has been up for discussion for a while now, not so much as a three-day specialist but as someone who is good in limited-overs, T20 and 50-overs. The records of both Saurabh Tiwary [another surprise choice] and Anirudha are similar - we need to see if they have the X-factor in T20. They can both hit a long ball and we believed they needed an opportunity to see how they do at the Emerging Players level."

The selector said of Anirudha: "We know that he is not consistent enough in four-day cricket, but he is an impact player in T20 cricket. The format in itself is inconsistent and we believe that he has the capacity to get you a win every five or six matches. He's done well at the Champions League, which is one level higher from the IPL; he won a match for Chennai."

When asked whether he was aware that the tournament format had changed from limited-overs to three-day cricket, the selector said, "that's news" yet believed that the squad was "covered".

The Emerging Players tournament began in 2005 as a T20 event, but for the last four years has consisted of Twenty20 and 50-over matches. The change of format was approved by all participating nations and formally announced on May 28, 2011. Cricket Australia general manager Michael Brown is quoted as saying, on the ICC's official website, that the format change would give players, "a good competitive taste of all formats with this longer series complementing the T20 tournament that will be hosted by the Malaysian Cricket Association just beforehand."

The Malaysian T20 tournament was to be held in early July but was cancelled on June 12. The Emerging Players tournament will be played in Townsville for the first time with Brown saying: "We feel it's important to provide a variety of conditions for the development of the players and the new facilities at Endeavour Park with multiple grounds will provide teams with first-class services."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo