July 11, 2011

Nepotism? Lack of professionalism more like

The selection of K Srikkanth's son for the Emerging Players Tournament tells us plenty about how the BCCI operates, and none of it is pretty

At a conference in New Delhi last year, Chris Hughes, one of the co-founders of Facebook, was describing a world order before the information age, but he could have been talking of the BCCI. He said: "We used to live in a world where we had a pyramid ... the most important people were those on the top, who would just talk to a few different individuals and make a decision where everyone else was affected." The world today, Hughes went on to say, works not merely with pyramids but networks. Indian cricket still operates in pyramid mode. Pity about the network of news media around it.

It has been more than a week since the BCCI released names of the Indian team for the Emerging Players tournament in Australia next month. The EPs squad initially slipped under the radar as it was unveiled along with the Indian team for the much-anticipated tour of England. The sphinx-like announcement of "Virender Sehwag will join the team a fortnight late" invited a round of ruckus and faulty theories. (What's his injury status? Is he not fit? Is he fit? Will he play in the first Test? Or is he sorting out his son's school admission?)

Thirty-six hours after the EP squad was released came an alert about its inclusion of Srikkanth Anirudha, who had had an average first-class season in 2010-2011. Chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who is Anirudha's father, said the selection had been arrived at with "consensus", and BCCI secretary N Srinivasan told reporters he did not talk about selection matters.

One of the other four selectors said it was Srikkanth who had brought up his son's name. Two of the remaining three defended Anirudha's selection and denied allegations the rest of them had succumbed to paternal pressure. His selection, they said, had been talked about in their meetings, where he was looked at as a potential limited-overs candidate based on his IPL and Champions League Twenty20 performances rather than first-class form.

What was missing from the discussion, it was discovered later, was a basic piece of information: what sort of players was the BCCI hoping would emerge from the EPT? Some selectors at least believed the EPT team should have limited-overs specialists, when in fact in late May it was announced that the tournament format would be changed into a round robin of three-day matches. A Cricket Australia press release states that "the format changes have the tick of approval from the competing nations", naming India, New Zealand and South Africa. An end-July T20 tournament in Malaysia featuring the EPT squads and acting as a pre-cursor to the event in Australia has been cancelled.

None of what transpired is Anirudha's fault at all. He must be a somewhat unhappy and conflicted young man. He knows that whenever his calibre as a cricketer comes under scrutiny, being a son of a famous father (let alone of the chairman of selectors) can be the most miserable of detriments. His selection is not as much a motif of alleged nepotism but more one of a lack of professionalism and transparency. One that shows the game's governors in India believe they are its rulers. All right, its pharaohs.

Srikkanth's position as selection chief required that he make himself available to talk about both squads; as much about Sehwag as about Anirudha's selection for the EPT. He would have been better off answering questions. About whether the EPs were not really an India A team but included those still at the A-minus level. About whether he had left the room or put his phone on silent when his son was being discussed. The selectors defending the selection say Anirudha was picked on merit. Surely their chief can sit in front of cameras and mikes, which he usually does not dislike, and argue their case. Or put out a lucid statement. Instead, with the BCCI quietly slotting Anirudha in (under his TNCA registered name of S Anirudha) and hoping no one would notice, they have invited suspicion and been unfair to their player.

No one minds a selectorial punt based on a mix of instinct and logic. When selectors' hunches work, they are applauded. When a team is announced with skeletal information, like it is a need-to-know basis document, an army of rats is smelt. This is secret-keeping, as if there is something to hide.

No one minds a selectorial punt based on a mix of instinct and logic. When selectors' hunches work, they are applauded. When a team is announced with skeletal information, like it is a need-to-know basis document, an army of rats is smelt. This is secret-keeping, as if there is something to hide

Actually there is: the selectors were picking a team that could have played in last year's EPT. The goof-up regarding the EPT format is particularly rich, as Srikkanth's panel is the first-ever fully paid BCCI selection committee, starting in 2008, with their salaries being upped from Rs 25 lakhs per annum to Rs 40 lakhs in December 2009. The move was intended to make the selectors "accountable".

A selection panel's accountability usually depends on how the team they pick do on the field. The World Cup victory may have made this panel somewhat bulletproof. Yet if players are judged by every series, so must their bulletproof selectors. In this case, even before the first ball was bowled in the tournament they picked a team for, the panel committed more than one error.

At the very least, when discussions opened, no one had done his homework. The EPT was a tournament where long-form performers had to be considered this year, but the format change was not red-flagged. At worst, some knew what the tournament format was about and didn't bother to tell their colleagues when names began to float around over the phone lines.

The selector who alleged that Srikkanth had brought up his son's name certainly didn't mention the change in format either. It was a strong-enough case to free up more than just Anirudha's slot in that team. Other than fire a stink bomb afterwards, that selector wasn't doing his job either.

The pharaohs loved their pyramids because it gave them a notional sense of their grandeur. The BCCI likes its silences for the same reason. We know what pyramids really are, though. Burial chambers.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Big on July 14, 2011, 21:00 GMT

    @Zahir Aslam, its more about transparency in the process. Where has it been indicated that Srikkanth walked away from the meeting, instead he himself brought up his son's name. Now based on your logic, every selector can put forward their sons for selection and if they work out - great if not - hard luck and a decision gone bad for selectors. Are we talking about Bollywood or Indian cricket here? Are we going back to dynasty era where a cricketers son has to be a cricketer - no matter how bad he is? Doesn't India have congress for this? Whats wrong with merit based system? Now that we are on the topic, has it ever been considered to have quota system like India has for education?

  • Ashok on July 14, 2011, 15:30 GMT

    Is it practical to expect Sehwag to walk straight from his shoulder surgery into test match on English pitch, if he ever does? That is a bigger question for the Indian team Selectors. Indian squad needs a backup opener even if Mukund & Gambhir will open the innings in the Lords Test.If either of these guys is injured, panic sets in and they try to get someone in the eleventh hour. Till Sehwag joins the team, Indian Selectors must think ahead of a third opener with the team.Alternative choice would be for Dravid to open with Gambhir, 3. Laxman 4. Tendulkar 5. Dhoni 6. Yuvraj 7. Raina or Mishra 8. Harbhajan + 3 pacemen.Even If Mukund opens with Gambhir, Dravid may come in within first 5 overs. So this is an alternate option if an experienced opener is not sent. Team selection & position players are critical which Indians always overlook.India should have won the thrid testin WI by an innings had Mishra played. Now Mishra may be essential to stop Trott,KP, Cook & Bell going rampant.

  • rajeev on July 14, 2011, 10:13 GMT

    Another great article from Sharda. Good to see someone questioning the selectors. I would like to put forward the case of M Vijay and would like to ask what has been the basis of selection for this player to be in the indian test side. If you look at his record over the past few years it has been less than ordinary. He has failed time and again but strangely finds his way in the team. Why he was given so many chances, another player picked by K Srikkanth. On the other hand talented player like Virat Kohli is left out after just one series, what kind of signal it will send to him. Take the selection of Vinay Kumar, he is slow medium at best, gets hammered all over the place even by tailenders, never looks like taking wickets, never looks like he can surprise a batsman, still gets the nod. On the other hand Umesh Yadav, who had pace and stamina, and had the surprise element, is sidelined after one series. We should be nurturing players like Umesh to come good and not players like Vinay.

  • Ashok on July 13, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    The case of selection of Srikanth's son is clearly "Catch 22" situation. It is quite likely, he is fully deserving of a place in the side but his Dad is afraid to select him.Hence the hesitation. But the case of Sehwag's joining the team late is rather strange.He should be with the team unless he is undergoing special medical treatment. But until he can resume his duties there should be an opening bat available.Karthick or Utappa may have been good choices. But neither are named. That leaves the team with Mukund to open the innings with Gambhir with no other choice.Mukund had only the experience of WI series as a test opener. Why not go with experienced opener because a good opening stand is critical. This I consider as a serious judgement lapse by the Selectors.Mukund will be like a scrificial lamb facing Tremlett, Anderson, & Co on green fast England pitches. Why is the Selection committee so myopic as to risk losing the confidence of a youngster with such blind move?

  • Dummy4 on July 13, 2011, 9:32 GMT

    let TN win a ranji trophy and then say u r the best in indian cricket win a IPL (without dhoni who is not a tamil nadu player ) and DD dont have gambhir ,kholi, i sharma ,mishra,nehra so ipl is not the base for selection

  • Sooraj on July 13, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    @Shriram Nagarajan: I wasn't saying Vijay doesn't have technique but was not a revelation at least yet. Especially you can't compare him with the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag, Kohli. About his technique, at least he doesn't seem to be using it in the recent past. Fielding better than Nehra or Munaf doesn't make Ashwin a good fielder. Especially given the factor he is of the same age group as Kohli, Raina, Rohit, etc. I have watched enough cricket to see how good his fielding is, which definitely not even the current Indian standard, at least not yet. Again, I would be happy to see these guys improving and being a permanent part of the team given they are young. But currently they are no way certainties for Indian team unlike the Delhi players our fellow commenter was comparing them with.

  • Matt on July 13, 2011, 5:49 GMT

    Brings to mind Ravi Shastri's comment to a journalist , who questioned him about the rumours that it was Sunny Gavaskar (the then captain) who recommended and pushed him for selection and was Sunny his godfather? . Ravi replied " you may have a Godfather or god father's grandfather helping you, but once you get that chance you have to prove your selection and ONLY the very talented can survive there in the middle. So let Anirudh prove his selection to the country and also to his father, else he will get sidelined automatically . The system works that way .

  • Andrew on July 13, 2011, 2:28 GMT

    @ Jim1207 - read my comment before you reply. I said there IS a lack of transparancy. Doesn't matter much when a World Cup has been won & there is a stable well performing national side. However, THE ARTICLE CLEARLY shows that more transparancy is required AND that there was conflicting statements coming from the selectors - which I said was LIKE what was happening at Cric Oz! Most of the other 90 comments indicate some degree of confusion as to some selections. Transparancy HAS to be paramount when a father is selecting a son! I tended to think Rohan Gavaskar got a lot further than what his talent relatively deserved. I wonder why? Plenty of Indians have commented about regional bias as well. Anyways as I said - not a big deal when you're winning, but when you start to lose - that's another matter! Just ask Andrew Hilditch!

  • Dummy4 on July 12, 2011, 18:13 GMT

    Paul Valthaty should have been picked instead of Anirudha.

  • Udhaya on July 12, 2011, 17:30 GMT

    When India is the world champions in one day and no.1 in tests,I dont know why people crib about selection committee. I dont want to comment about anirudha selection, but TN consistently makes the semifinals of ranji trophy and one day tournament..so it is definitely one of the top 4 teams in India..I wouldn't worry about the basis of selection if india manages to win at the end of the day..lets leave it to the selectors and do our job properly..

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