A profile of Sanjay Jagdale April 6, 2007

The importance of being earnest

Anand Vasu profiles Sanjay Jagdale, the Indian selector who may once again hold the answer to some extraordinarily tough questions



Sanjay Jagdale during one of the many Indian selection meetings in Mumbai © Getty Images

Until recently, Sanjay Jagdale was merely part of an answer to an obscure quiz question cricketing anoraks liked to challenge themselves with: who are the only father-son duo never to have played for India who have both been national selectors. Sanjay, who is currently in his second stint as national selector, followed in the footsteps of his late father, Madhavsinh Jagdale. Now, as the Indian board prepares for a desperately trying day, Sanjay may once again hold the answer to some extraordinarily tough questions.

The 56-year old Sanjay, who played first-class cricket for 14 years for Madhya Pradesh as a batsman with a modest record, is much more than the mere statistics of 2077 runs at 26.62 indicate. Since he finished as a player Sanjay served cricket as the secretary of his state association, as a junior selector and then finally as a national selector.

He earned the respect of his peers as a junior selector in the early 1990s, spotting talent like VVS Laxman, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Sridharan Sriram and Murali Kartik. One of Jagdale's strengths as a selector was that he believed in giving players a long rope, and backed them to the hilt once he picked them. But more than what he did with the junior selections, it was what he did with Narendra Hirwani that is possibly his biggest achievement. But Jagdale, although usually conspicuous in a crowd, standing well over six feet in height, prefers to take none of the credit for the role he played in the rise of Hirwani from a nobody to someone who picked up 16 wickets on debut against Viv Richards' West Indians in Chennai in 1988.

But, while this rock-solid credibility will lend serious weight to the report he presents on India's dismal showing in the 2007 World Cup, where he was manager, some people will look to discount what he says on the basis that Jagdale is a known Chappell supporter

A teetotaler who prefers early nights, Jagdale comes from a distinguished cricketing family, with his father being almost as popular as someone like Mushtaq Ali, a great of the game, back home in Indore. Jagdale has a reputation for being both a keen student of the game, and an honest and apolitical selector. All through his first stint as national selector, when he replaced Anil Deshpande, who stepped down for personal reasons, in 2000, there wasn't the slightest hint of controversy associated with his name. Equally, he was never accused of being regional or parochial, something almost every national selector in India has to face at some stage.

But, while this rock-solid credibility will lend serious weight to the report he presents on India's dismal showing in the 2007 World Cup, where he was manager, some people will look to discount what he says on the basis that Jagdale is a known Chappell supporter. In an interview to Mid Day, the Mumbai based tabloid, in 2005, when Jagdale was manager on India's tour of Sri Lanka, he said, "This is a dream assignment for me. I have been a great fan of Chappell and to get an opportunity to pick his brains is just great."

Jagdale speaks of how he followed Chappell's playing career keenly, and remembers that Jack Fingleton, the former Australian batsman and one of the most respected cricket writers Australia has produced, described Chappell's on-side play as being the best in the world. What's more, Jagdale was, at least at that stage, not merely a fan of Chappell's cricket, but also his approach to thinking and talking about the game, and admitted to having read the book, "The Making of Champions" at least twice.

Whether he still remains a fan of Chappell's methods, after two years of coaching, remains to be seen. But, if reports are to be believed, Jagdale was unhappy with the attitude of some of the senior cricketers in the course of the World Cup. If he puts that down in his report, citing concrete examples, his words might even carry more weight than Chappell's.

After all, Chappell's views on the subject have become fairly clear in the midst of an acrimonious exchange between coach and senior players. Jagdale, with his untarnished reputation and goodwill, could bring to Chappell's mission the same authority that Brutus's grey hairs lent to the mission to slay Julius Caesar, in another grand drama, from a different time altogether. In the end, no matter what his report contains, it will still be said that Jagdale was an honourable man.

Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo

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