October 2, 2012

Over to Patil

India's new selectors have to turn their backs on popular expectation and make bold picks

I have known Sandeep Patil well over the years. I have played with him, played under him when he was captain and also when he was India coach in 1996. I have spent a lot of time with him socially too.

I have always felt, while playing with him or watching him operate as a retired cricketer, that he is cut out to be a junior team's coach. He's an excellent motivator for players aged around 17 or 18, and can make a telling difference to a cricketer at a critical stage of his growth. When he was coaching the senior Indian team, I thought he struggled a bit to manage players between the ages of 25 and 35, in whose case the challenges are different.

I don't know how he will fare as India's chairman of selectors. He's very good at spotting talent, but selection is not just about spotting talent, is it? It's about making sure that the talent gets the right training and gets breaks at the appropriate times.

I hope Patil, or any Indian selector for that matter, realises that being popular is futile. A selector has to take hard decisions, which will often upset some people. He must disregard such sentiments and be ruled only by the thought of what is best for Indian cricket.

In India we tend to make compromises on selections, preferring to take safe decisions that will go down well with most people, especially the fans and the media. Many in Indian cricket fear the backlash from media and fans and tend to go with the popular choices rather than the ones that make cricketing sense.

Over the years I have heard selectors talk privately about what they really wanted to do but could not because "it's just not possible in the Indian set-up". This is unfortunate. A brave selector will keep things simple. He will do what is best for Indian cricket and not think about how it will go down with the fans and media. As much as the fans have been responsible for Indian cricket's great growth, they have also unknowingly been responsible for a lot of compromises made in selections.

It is important for Patil to insulate himself from all this if he is to pick the team that will take Indian cricket forward. The selectors will make mistakes, like we all do, but here's hoping those are honest cricketing mistakes.

During the retirements of VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, it was evident there wasn't great communication between the selectors and the players. I'd like to see that improve. Once you are a selector it should not matter how much cricket you have played. You should have the confidence to sit the legends down, understand what they want, see if their plans coincide with those of Indian cricket, and act accordingly when picking teams.

I think Patil has to talk to senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan, find out what their long-term plans are, and decide whether they will serve Indian cricket better if relieved of having to play any one format of the game.

No Indian selection escapes the attention of the media, which is why selectors tend to play it safe. But I think there is scope to gamble on talent. One of the reasons you have cricketers as selectors is because they have an eye for talent. They can pick the rough diamonds that don't catch everyone's eye. If a selector is going to only pick the top run-getters and wicket-takers all the time, a computer can do his job. Fast-tracking players should not be abandoned. India need to find their own Ajantha Mendis and Akila Dananjaya, two players picked from outside the system by Sri Lanka.

I hope the new selectors were as hurt by India's 0-8 losses in England and Australia last year as most of us were. If they were, every selection they make will be ruled by one thought: will this pick serve us overseas as well? India's next goal has to be to regain their lost reputation in Tests overseas. The selectors should not be carried away by a very successful run at home.

I believe that in India the chairman of selectors has a more influential role to play than the national coach. The Indian team should ideally be one for all seasons. It's the chief selector's job to build it.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sudhakar on October 5, 2012, 6:01 GMT

    @rosh280 - seems like follow local cricket quite closely ;-) This is something that needs to change with the selection committee as well.. i have no problems that ex-cricketers are chosen for the job, but then the key question is do they have the motivation and/or enthusiasm to sit through a Ranji match or for that matter even tournaments such as Buchi Babu tournament to see the real talent that india has. To me this is really the problem with Indian cricket. The passion/fire for selectors is the key to selecting the right talent. Classic examples of excellent selection choices are the likes of Wasim, Inzamam et al who were handpicked from nowhere! I would like to see a complete revamp of the selection committee and BCCI.

  • rahul on October 5, 2012, 2:04 GMT

    India won the World cup and became top test ranked team under the last selection panel. So it is very unlikely that Patil will be able to do better. The best players in India are over the hill and among the new players only Kohli is top class.

  • roshan on October 4, 2012, 16:15 GMT

    Really sanjay. He definitely has a hard task before him. He has to take some tough decision if indian cricket has to survive with flying colors. Patel is a man with different skills so i feel it wont be a difficult job for him. There are lot of young players waiting for the chance murali vijay, mandeep singh, ashok menaria, vinay kumar, rithuraj singh, i d singh of jk, surya kumar yadav, ankeet chavan, ankit bawne, sunny singh, robin bist, bhuvanesh kumar, jalaj saxena, shami ahmed, harshal patel, gurkeerat singh, kaustubh pawar, mirtuja vohra, k p apanna, t p sudhindra, baba aparajith, sarul kanwar, uday kaul, gagan deep singh, gurkeerat singh, ambati rayudu,unmukt chand, manish pandey, mayank agarwal, ishant jaggi, pradeep sangwan, rahul dewan, pawan zuyal, m s goni, b bhatt. There are lot of talents in our anvil but i dont know how we can use them. seniors have to give way to them. Non performers have to look for next opportunity. Confident indian team will comeup definitely.

  • Aditya on October 4, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Great selector. I hope the players selected understand this. Players mustn't think that selection is a chance, come good, because there are so many players who can be great.

  • Manjunath on October 4, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    Contd.... 3. What about the captain: We are all proud of Dhoni as captain and his achievements. But at present he looks tired and not as good as before. I feel we need seperate captain for different formats. He is still good captain for ODI , but we need different captain(s) for test and T20. May be Gambhir is the good option with Virat as his deputy! 4. They need to listen to captain as well: If given a option , I do not think Dhoni would have accepted Chawla in his 15 for WC. he may be opted for Ojha or Rahul Sharma. Sometime it is better to get feedback from the captain or ask him atleast what kind of combination he needs (no. of batsmen,Variety in bowling etc)

  • Manjunath on October 4, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    I think selectors needs to have systematic approach : 1. The main problems with last selection panel was players were picked from no where and dropped for no reason . For Ex: Piyush Chawla's selection in both WC. Praveen Kumar promised so much in Test, He was Dropped after injury. I know he was not in form,that happens to every cricketer after injury. But he never got extended run like Rohit Sharma!! 2. They need to create a strong bench strength: Along with the best 15, Selectors need to create a pool of player (say 30 players). Currently no such pool exists. Players are picked from no where for not only main team but also for Ind A and for other domestic tournments. Players like Rahul Sharma someday gets direct entry to Main team and he wont get a place in Ind A after dropped from main team!! So the bottom line is create a pool of 30-40 good players and select 15 for the national team and others will play Ind A or other domestic tournments. Contd....

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    @Anuj Kapoor, T20 is no cricket, and how come its gonna be the future....? The real cricket is the Test matches followed by ODIs. For those who think that the cricket lovers are the one who just watch the cricket,and does not have cricketing brain, please change your views. I am a firm believer that any local street teams who play/conduct torneys in school grounds can do better than this current T20 Indian team. The difference from the street teams to the international team is the test macth and ODI experiance.

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    i think its high time we look towards the future and the future is T20 so we need to pick quality players both batsmen and bowlers who are specialists in this format of the game. Its not that Dhoni has done anything wrong but its just that his ideas have gone all wrong and we need to include some fresh blood in T20 format, which will generate new spirit. There needs to be some drastic changes in the team espicially in T20 format considering the amount of T20 matches being played and that would mean to make a captain of the India team who is both young and at the same time has experience in this format. However, this doesnt mean that we need to put the burden on Virat Kohli. He is performing well so it doesnt mean that we need to put unnecessay pressure on him.

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2012, 2:19 GMT

    I think its time for dhoni to take some rest from all formats of the cricket.Let Virat kohli to lead the Indian team

  • Ashok on October 3, 2012, 18:43 GMT

    Sanjay: If the players are picked based on: 1. Fitness 2. Form & 3. Performance, neither Indian Fans nor the Media will call Foul. In fact the Selectors will get huge praise for doing their job to perfection. The outgoing Selection team under Srikant did not do this. Lack of fitness caused half the squad to return from UK. In the Australian tour the selection of final XI was flawed. India needs the selection of the squad + final XI to be based on above 3 factors. The T 20 squad should focus on the specialist bowlers & batsmen for that format alone. India has weak bowling but when the best available bowlers are not picked, it does not give India a fair chance to win. M.Kartik & Rahul Sharma are the 2 best proven spinners for T 20 but excluded in the recent T 20 sqaud. Similarly picking Rohit Sharma in XI under the guise of "Talent" despite his multiple failures is bad for the team.If the new Selectors can select a team based on above 3 factors, India will do well both in India & abroad

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