Selectors brace for 'hot seat'
India's new selectors are looking forward to the challenge of picking the national team and dealing with the inevitable brickbats that would follow. Sandeep Patil was named the chairman, with Roger Binny, Saba Karim, Vikram Rathour and Rajinder Hans as the other selectors.
Former India medium-pacer Binny said it would be exciting to be back alongside Patil, a friend and team-mate from the 1980s. More than anyone else, the new job would present a challenge for Binny as this will be the first time he will be associated with the Indian national side after a decade. In 2000, he qualified as a Level 3 coach from Cricket Australia. Subsequently he was coach of the national junior teams overseeing the Under-15, U- 17 and U-19 as well as the India A team.
He was then transferred to the Asian Cricket Council where he worked in a developmental role in countries like China, Thailand, Brunei for eight years between 2001-2008. Binny was nominated last year to the national panel as well but missed out as the BCCI granted a year-long extension to the Kris Srikkanth-led committee.
Binny agreed it would a difficult task trying to meet expectations. "You could say we are in a little bit of a hot seat. It is not only the cricketers who give you the brickbats, it is the entire country," he said. "We have to build a team for the present and the future. That would be our main role."
Binny said the new panel takes over at a time when Indian cricket is rebuilding. "We are probably in a little bit of a transition stage because we have lost two of the best batsmen (Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman) recently. So it will be a little bit difficult to begin with but then we have the opportunity to look at so many young cricketers around the country who have been doing well in domestic cricket."
Karim does not have any long-term experience either as a coach or a selector except for a one-year stint in 2002 when he was appointed by the BCCI as selector to pick both junior and senior teams in Bihar immediately after he retired from cricket. Karim then became a television commentator on domestic cricket before working as an in-studio pundit.
Karim is excited by the task ahead. "It is different role," he said. "It is a huge challenge. I am embarking on a journey where I have to be extremely judicious and at the same time be very fair and honest to the job profile."
According to Karim, the new panel has a solid base to build on. "The past selection committee did a very good job based on the fact that India won the World Cup and there is new talent on the rise. But we will need to be more accountable and professional going forward."
Karim does not believe it is a handicap that he was not travelling in any coaching capacity in domestic cricket. "I was going around watching domestic cricket as a commentator and also when I was in the studio I equipped myself with what was happening on the domestic circuit," he said. Karim said it would be nice to get re-acquainted with the likes of Rathour, a contemporary during his playing days and Patil, his fellow expert on television.
Rathour, a stylish batsman with an eye-catching technique, played in six Tests as an opener in the mid-1990s. After quitting cricket he moved to England for seven years before returning to India and taking over as Punjab's head coach last year. He was also the assistant coach at Kings XI Punjab during IPL 5. "It is an honour to pick a team that will represent India," Rathour said. The challenge, Rathour pointed out, would be to pick the "best available" team. "It is nothing to do with your state or the zone."
Hans is the only new selector to have not played for India. He was part of the Indian squad in three Tests against Kim Hughes' Australians during the 1979-80 series, but didn't get a game. He was the coach of Uttar Pradesh from 2003 to 2006 and later moved for year-long stints at Jharkhand and Tripura in a similar capacity. He was also the junior national selector for three years and was a respected left-arm spinner on the domestic circuit. A contemporary of Patil and Binny, Hans is confident he can bring something new to the table, particularly given his experience in domestic cricket.
"I have played first-class cricket for eleven years and have been involved in coaching at both junior and senior levels for the last ten years," Hans said. "I am confident about contributing whatever I can to the team."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo