Plan now for 2011
The inability to make long-term choices consistently has been a handicap for India's selection panels down the years. And the latest one has to deal with how to go about phasing senior players out of the side as well. VB Chandrasekhar, who served as South Zone selector from 2004 to 2006 on the panel chaired by Kiran More looks at the challenges ahead of the current committee as it tries to build a team for 2011.
When the Indian selectors sit down to pick the one-day team for the Pakistan series, one of the most important things for them consider would be: are we picking a team for the next series or are we building a team for the 2011 World Cup? It's not easy to get that balance right, especially since India have a few senior players who are still pulling their weight, even though some of them will definitely not playing in the next World Cup.
I remember Rahul Dravid saying a few years back - and he was not even captain then -- that it's important for players to have 60 to 70 one-day internationals behind them when they go to the World Cup. During my tenure we tried to blood guys like Suresh Raina, Venugopal Rao and RP Singh, but our committee wasn't there by the time the 2007 World Cup arrived. The new committee had different ideas and whatever we were trying to do was nullified, and the team that went to the World Cup didn't look prepared. In turn, the same thing might happen with this committee.
That's why continuity is crucial. There needs to be an architect with vision and clear ideas working on building the ideal formation for 2011. The pieces will not fall in to place at one go, but as long as you have a clear picture in mind, you'll know what pieces to look for. If you take every step in the present with an eye on the future, three years down the line you might get the combination right.
As far as the senior players go, the problem is that the selectors are expecting the players themselves to make the move; they expect the players to come out and say, "I am going play till next year." It should be the other way round. It should be the selectors taking them aside and telling them, "We may not have you in 2011, so how do we phase you out? When do you want us to take the big step?" The senior players deserve that.
What was done to Sourav Ganguly the last time was wrong. I was part of that committee, and I felt that we should have taken him into confidence and explained our position to him. To me, one should be decent enough to say, "You have served the country for long and you deserve a royal exit." But it never happened. He was dropped and then he came back.
It's the stupidest thing, to announce a team in the middle of a tournament. I scored a hundred on the last day of the Irani Trophy in 1989 and the team was picked on the third
If Sachin Tendulkar says he's planning to stay on till 2011, it's then up to the selectors to decide if he fits in their scheme of things. However great he is as a player, he is going to be getting on in years by the time the next World Cup comes around, so it will be a tough call.
With Rahul Dravid, quite a few things have happened in a very short time, most importantly him quitting the captaincy, and India winning the Twenty20 World Cup, showing the kind of energy which was lacking in their one-day cricket. But if I were a selector, I wouldn't be taking a call on current form. Dravid has been around for ten years and has pulled his weight in the one-day side, and anyone can have a bad series. What would matter to me is how he fits into the broad picture. I wouldn't want to be left with too little time to build the 2011 team.
From what I know of Dravid, I know he understands what it takes to build a side. If he were to say, "I am looking at the one-dayers in Australia, and I am willing to sit out if I can't perform," then I will go with him.
If you are serious about rotation, identify who your 20 players are and then rotate them. It's important for players like S Badrinath or Rohit Sharma to know where they stand. You can't just pick someone for one tournament; there has to be a method to it. Don't use rotation as a policy of convenience when the senior players are failing.
Lastly, it's the stupidest thing, to announce a team in the middle of a tournament. I can give my own example here. In 1988, I scored a hundred on the last day of the Irani Trophy and the team was chosen on the third, and I then didn't make to the team until a few months. It's important to pick a player when he's on a high.
As told to Nagraj Gollapudi