June 6, 2014

Why the BCCI needs to be more open about selection decisions

The case of Stuart Binny's selection for the England tour shows the importance of the need for transparency
24

An email from the BCCI at the conclusion of a selection committee meeting on May 28 confirmed Karnataka allrounder Stuart Binny's inclusion for the ODI series in Bangladesh and for the Test tour of England. While his ODI selection was less contentious, eyebrows were raised when he made the cut for the Tests in England. The outrage on social media was instant and entirely predictable. Stuart's father, the former India allrounder Roger Binny, is a national selector and the deduction was as vicious as it was simplistic: dad had done son a favour. Binny senior was accused of nepotism, favouritism and worse.

The truth, though, was the stark opposite. At the selection committee meeting, Roger Binny had, in fact, recused himself when Stuart's name came up for discussion - as is mandatory for national selectors to do in such circumstances. Roger excused himself from the meeting to let his four colleagues deliberate on Stuart's claims. It wasn't the first time he had done so: on the two previous occasions that Stuart had been picked for India, his father had not been a party to the decision.

This vital nugget of information, though, was kept away from India's highly opinionated and easily outraged cricket followers, bringing into question yet again the BCCI's policy of doggedly refusing to communicate details about vital decisions. What possibly prevents a media release from including a couple of lines clarifying the situation?

A simple disclosure saying that Binny senior was not part of the team that picked his son would douse the fire before it spreads. Stuart Binny won his spot because he was found meritorious by a majority of the national selection panel, excluding his father. Yet the son is now scoffed at as the beneficiary of his father's largesse. To make matters worse, the BCCI's policy on media interactions mandates that these men cannot clear the air in public; they simply have to sit back and bear the charges hurled in their direction.

In essence, this episode is yet another glaring instance of how the BCCI's Soviet-style lack of communication is proving counter-productive. Several questions emerged after the squad for the series in England was named. For instance, has the door been shut firmly now on Zaheer Khan's career? What explains Umesh Yadav's exclusion, although as many as six frontline quick bowlers have been picked for the series? Does he have fitness problems the world at large is unaware of? Is the bowler once touted as the next big hope in Indian cricket in some sort of worrying decline? Why was room found for only one spare batsman? Were other openers considered before deciding to return to Gautam Gambhir?

Selecting cricket teams isn't an exact science. These choices are, in fact, best described as considered punts. Selectors are mostly former players, who make a judgement call on players, especially those on the fringe, based on several factors - form, fitness, instinct, ability, gumption, track record, and at times a certain X-factor. Some insight into the reasons for those choices would perhaps make for a more informed discourse. It may still spark debates of equal ferocity, but at least those are likely to be based on some degree of insight.

The unprecedented step of taking 18 players on the tour of England, for instance, needed some explanation. Was it as insurance - to have fresh and fit players to call upon, because five Tests are to be played in the space of six weeks? Is it to ensure there is no repeat of the shambles of India's last tour of England, which was derailed by a spate of injuries? If so, why the reluctance to share those perfectly acceptable reasons with the cricket public?

The BCCI's disinclination to make the national selection panel address press conferences is quite understandable. Over the last few years, India's cricket media hasn't merely exploded, it has mutated to the point where hunting for sensational headlines and pursuing manufactured controversies is unfortunately now the default brief for reporters across the spectrum.

To subject selectors to repeated questions of the nature of "why so and so, why not so and so" is an exercise in futility. However, there is an option available to make the media release more meaningful than merely naming the men who will board the plane. Perhaps the Cricket Australia model isn't a bad one to adopt, where the media release sheds some light on the choices made.

By remaining as insular as it does, the BCCI is allowing intrigues and conspiracy theories to fester. The players and selectors in question are left to face the brunt. Stuart Binny's progress in the game, for instance, must not be scuttled because his father is a national selector. Stuart was a significant contributor in Karnataka's run to the Ranji Trophy title last season, and it can hardly be argued his claim to national elevation is without merit. Perhaps he has been chosen as a batting allrounder for the tour? If India are inclined to play five bowlers in one of the Tests, perhaps the thinking is that Binny may offer the right ingredients - bat in the top seven and bowl ten to 15 overs in the day.

Roger Binny has spent a lifetime in cricket as a player, coach and scout, and he ticks all the boxes for an upright selector. He too is tarred with that wretched phrase "conflict of interest", even when he steers well clear of such conflict. The conspiracy theorists could well argue that if he is allowed to be seen to uphold the principles of propriety, it will reflect poorly on those who haven't done so. Indian cricket's problem lies not just in that it is populated by men of doubtful integrity but that it cruelly allows the upright among them to be tarred with the same brush.

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on June 9, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    I wonder why Umesh Yadav has been left out of the English tour. Recently, he has shown great improvement in line, length, and direction, and has not compromised on speed. What else do you want in a good fast bowler? Is there a logic in the decision by the Selection Committee to leave him out? I think not. Aaron has not impressed me at all; nor has Mohit Sharma. Both are misfits in the National side. Of the pace bowlers, I would retain only Shami, Bhuvaneshwar, and Umesh, and have another good back up to them. Binny's selection is a disgrace. So are those of Ashwin and Jadeja. Both have been overrated and were at the receiving end of the stick in the recently concluded South African and Australian tours. Dhoni's captaincy in test matches too is overrated. May be the English tour will be the last nail in the cricketing coffins of Dhoni, Aaron, Binny, Ashwin, Raina, and Jadeja. If Gambhir can be included in the team to tour England, why not Harbhajan. My two cents worth.

  • on June 7, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    People are just talking about binny's inclusion but what about Ashwin? We all are aware of his dismal performance away...sometimes I wonder, are Ashwin n Jadeja the best 2 spinners in this country? Ojha's last test was Sachin's 200th where he got mom...just hoping that it wasn't thr last of his career

  • on June 7, 2014, 2:56 GMT

    umesh yadav, sanju samson and kl rahul should have been there instead of binny, panjaj singh, gautam gambhir and murali vijay

  • on June 7, 2014, 0:11 GMT

    And why has Umesh Yadav been overlooked?

  • pa99 on June 6, 2014, 23:33 GMT

    cricket selectors and God both move in mysterious ways!

    in 1949, Australia dropped the then world's best all-rounder Keith Miller from the tour of South Africa. and this was after his wonderful tour of England with Bradman's Invincibles in 1948! Miller was then a late inclusion for South Africa as a replacement.

  • DarthKetan on June 6, 2014, 21:49 GMT

    Just because Roger Binny was not part of deliberations does not mean he couldn't have influenced the decision....he MAY just as easily have lobbied for it ahead of the discussions (not saying he did). Fact of the matter is that on merit alone, Stuart Binny is not the best fast bowling all-rounder in the country....Rishi Dhawan has significantly better first-class batting and bowling averages than Stuart.

  • Nampally on June 6, 2014, 21:36 GMT

    (Contd): Roger Binny stepping out of the Meeting Room does not justify the selection of his Son- who does not have a record which outshines other contenders for the position. Raina is the best all rounder in India today. If they want a seamer all rounder, Dhawan & Shukla walk in on their record. The Selectors should think carefully what the Team needs in England & provide the players who can rise up to the needs. Just 3 Opening batsmen which includes a "failed Gambhir" is a poor choice when good opening stand is the main reason why the Team failed in their last tour. Get the guys who performed well this year & have confidence to do it - Uthappa & Nair. Sandeep Sharma with his excellent swing bowling along with Kumar are the 2 best wkt. taking bowlers. Yadev & Aaron are the 2 fastest & Shami is combo of Pace & swing. These 5 should be the seamers. When some of these guys are missing, the Selectors did not select the team on Teams' Needs. I doubt this team will do batter than last one!

  • Nampally on June 6, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    " Binny Senior was accused of Nepotism, Favouritism & worse"! I am not surprised at this at all. If the Selection of squad was based on Form, Fitness & current performance record, very few Fans dare challenge or accuse the Selectors of anything at all. There are always a few omissions of individual Fan favourites. But bringing in a guy who has neither performance record nor ability to perform at high level often brings severe criticism. The first thing the Selectors needed considering is why did India fail on their last tour so badly. The reasons are simple: 1. Failure of opening batsmen- Sehwag & Gambhir 2. Players chosen on past record than current Form 3. Players selected despite being half fit- e.g.: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Zaheer, Singh + many other injured during play. The Selectors did not address the opening batsmen problem by recalling a failed guy- Gambhir. Why not Uthappa & Nair? Yadev dropped. Raina & Yuvraj make room for Binny. Dhoni retained as Capt. despite his dismal record!

  • on June 6, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Gaurav, I agree with your demand for more BCCI transparency. Although your article was not about the merit in selection of Binny Jr., yet you brought it up to serve as an example of your key point. Because you did that, as a reader I was expecting a bit of fair evaluation of Binny Jr.'s cricketing achievements. Binny Sr. may have excused himself of the boardroom meeting, but, the conspiracy theorists can well argue that Binny Sr. could have advocated his son's case with his remaining four selector colleagues anywhere else or by any other means (like a phone call etc.). The question still remains why did the remaining four selectors find Binny Jr. good enough? X number of runs and Y number of wickets etc. Had you highlighted something like that in your piece, you could have made your point ("truth, though, was the stark opposite") more acceptable.

  • on June 6, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    where is rishi dawan the top wicket taker of ranji cricket with handful runs.what's wrong with him.why he didn't selected? pls someone explain me

  • on June 9, 2014, 13:56 GMT

    I wonder why Umesh Yadav has been left out of the English tour. Recently, he has shown great improvement in line, length, and direction, and has not compromised on speed. What else do you want in a good fast bowler? Is there a logic in the decision by the Selection Committee to leave him out? I think not. Aaron has not impressed me at all; nor has Mohit Sharma. Both are misfits in the National side. Of the pace bowlers, I would retain only Shami, Bhuvaneshwar, and Umesh, and have another good back up to them. Binny's selection is a disgrace. So are those of Ashwin and Jadeja. Both have been overrated and were at the receiving end of the stick in the recently concluded South African and Australian tours. Dhoni's captaincy in test matches too is overrated. May be the English tour will be the last nail in the cricketing coffins of Dhoni, Aaron, Binny, Ashwin, Raina, and Jadeja. If Gambhir can be included in the team to tour England, why not Harbhajan. My two cents worth.

  • on June 7, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    People are just talking about binny's inclusion but what about Ashwin? We all are aware of his dismal performance away...sometimes I wonder, are Ashwin n Jadeja the best 2 spinners in this country? Ojha's last test was Sachin's 200th where he got mom...just hoping that it wasn't thr last of his career

  • on June 7, 2014, 2:56 GMT

    umesh yadav, sanju samson and kl rahul should have been there instead of binny, panjaj singh, gautam gambhir and murali vijay

  • on June 7, 2014, 0:11 GMT

    And why has Umesh Yadav been overlooked?

  • pa99 on June 6, 2014, 23:33 GMT

    cricket selectors and God both move in mysterious ways!

    in 1949, Australia dropped the then world's best all-rounder Keith Miller from the tour of South Africa. and this was after his wonderful tour of England with Bradman's Invincibles in 1948! Miller was then a late inclusion for South Africa as a replacement.

  • DarthKetan on June 6, 2014, 21:49 GMT

    Just because Roger Binny was not part of deliberations does not mean he couldn't have influenced the decision....he MAY just as easily have lobbied for it ahead of the discussions (not saying he did). Fact of the matter is that on merit alone, Stuart Binny is not the best fast bowling all-rounder in the country....Rishi Dhawan has significantly better first-class batting and bowling averages than Stuart.

  • Nampally on June 6, 2014, 21:36 GMT

    (Contd): Roger Binny stepping out of the Meeting Room does not justify the selection of his Son- who does not have a record which outshines other contenders for the position. Raina is the best all rounder in India today. If they want a seamer all rounder, Dhawan & Shukla walk in on their record. The Selectors should think carefully what the Team needs in England & provide the players who can rise up to the needs. Just 3 Opening batsmen which includes a "failed Gambhir" is a poor choice when good opening stand is the main reason why the Team failed in their last tour. Get the guys who performed well this year & have confidence to do it - Uthappa & Nair. Sandeep Sharma with his excellent swing bowling along with Kumar are the 2 best wkt. taking bowlers. Yadev & Aaron are the 2 fastest & Shami is combo of Pace & swing. These 5 should be the seamers. When some of these guys are missing, the Selectors did not select the team on Teams' Needs. I doubt this team will do batter than last one!

  • Nampally on June 6, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    " Binny Senior was accused of Nepotism, Favouritism & worse"! I am not surprised at this at all. If the Selection of squad was based on Form, Fitness & current performance record, very few Fans dare challenge or accuse the Selectors of anything at all. There are always a few omissions of individual Fan favourites. But bringing in a guy who has neither performance record nor ability to perform at high level often brings severe criticism. The first thing the Selectors needed considering is why did India fail on their last tour so badly. The reasons are simple: 1. Failure of opening batsmen- Sehwag & Gambhir 2. Players chosen on past record than current Form 3. Players selected despite being half fit- e.g.: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Zaheer, Singh + many other injured during play. The Selectors did not address the opening batsmen problem by recalling a failed guy- Gambhir. Why not Uthappa & Nair? Yadev dropped. Raina & Yuvraj make room for Binny. Dhoni retained as Capt. despite his dismal record!

  • on June 6, 2014, 17:58 GMT

    Gaurav, I agree with your demand for more BCCI transparency. Although your article was not about the merit in selection of Binny Jr., yet you brought it up to serve as an example of your key point. Because you did that, as a reader I was expecting a bit of fair evaluation of Binny Jr.'s cricketing achievements. Binny Sr. may have excused himself of the boardroom meeting, but, the conspiracy theorists can well argue that Binny Sr. could have advocated his son's case with his remaining four selector colleagues anywhere else or by any other means (like a phone call etc.). The question still remains why did the remaining four selectors find Binny Jr. good enough? X number of runs and Y number of wickets etc. Had you highlighted something like that in your piece, you could have made your point ("truth, though, was the stark opposite") more acceptable.

  • on June 6, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    where is rishi dawan the top wicket taker of ranji cricket with handful runs.what's wrong with him.why he didn't selected? pls someone explain me

  • Arun_mohan on June 6, 2014, 16:34 GMT

    great to see that espncricinfo authors have been given a free hand to give opinions on all issues

  • on June 6, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    I can't see BCCI allowing the selectors to hold press conferences: there's likely to be too many awkward questions, but they should explain their choices briefly, given the cricket fans there. I admit I too can't understand why Yadav is not coming (or why Ishant is coming, but that's a different story).

    I think Binny may have been picked as a seam bowling all-rounder. Probably good to have one in the party (but i don't know whether Binny is the correct one to take).

  • ladycricfan on June 6, 2014, 11:55 GMT

    Players are selected on merit. That means ability, recent form and fitness. I don't think any board give press conferences on why somebody is selected or omitted. If you read the comments already posted by the fans, they want to know why Sehwag was ignored? Why Khan and Umesh missed out? Why not Sukla? Why Binny? The list goes on. Where do you stop? The boards are doing the right thing. The players are selected on MERIT.

  • on June 6, 2014, 11:30 GMT

    This is a staggering piece of insight to all the empty-headed detractors of a fair selection of Sturat Binny. Its time we realize the potential of an all rounder in the test squad too. With his seam swing bowling and his positive intent batting we can fill the big void in Indian cricket which has time and gain prevented India from winning matches in overseas. And let the debate of India's on-going best all rounder rest at the disposal of Selectors. We need to understand they are established former players and they watch domestic matches, so they are better equipped with the potentials of a particular player. Lets back the palyers and especially Stuart Binny as he had been made an easy target for evry of his dectractors,relinquishing his enganing performances as an all rounder in the domestic cricket.

  • Sekhar_S on June 6, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Hasn't this been the case for many years now - questions on decisions, apart from the obvious choices, not answered satisfactorily ? About Umesh I hope he gets to play in the India A team which is going to tour Australia in July and play 4-day games against Australia A led by James Faulkner.

  • soumyas on June 6, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    he was picked first time for tough AWAY tours, there he got 1 or 2 chances thats all. Now also he is picked for away tour where every indian batsmen failed except Dravid, he is given tough exams to pass. what about Rohit sharma and Jadeja who failed on Indian soil repeatedly but still continues to get selected ? these players got multiple chances to pass easy exams. even before giving proper chances to Stuart people started taking, that is wrong.

  • on June 6, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    He has to perform now to verify his selection.Stuart Binny's status situation in Indian team is similar to that of Bangladesh in World Cricket. Lot's of talk and no result. My question would be: after that previous dreadful tour of England shouldn't we go for more reliable players instead of testing Stuart Binny. He can not move the ball more that what Praveen Kumar did on the last tour to England neither can he can generate more pace than Praveen kumar. I think we have learnt that you need pace to get English batsman out in English conditions. I would be more than satisfied if Bhuvi could get India better returns than Praveen Kumar. Rohit Sharma is the right choice but he has to start think like Virat Kohli, otherwise India will be in trouble again, once gain....Having said that all the best to Stuart Binny....

  • Dysan25 on June 6, 2014, 9:21 GMT

    The selectors did a good job of picking the Test Team based on Domestic Performances rather than IPL. The Ranji Champions had good teamwork throughout the tournament and few players deserved to be picked. Hope that Stuart will be playing in some matches rather than benched.

  • venkatesh018 on June 6, 2014, 8:49 GMT

    The final sentence of the article sums up the anguish of all right thinking cricket lovers of the country. Superbly written piece, Gaurav.

  • on June 6, 2014, 7:21 GMT

    I would pick Binny ahead of Rohit Sharma.. The innings he played against ROI in the Irani trophy is a testament to his abilities with the bat.. He is a good option in England where his style would certainly suit the conditions.. He should start.. If Dhoni is worried that batting would weaken, he can rest assured that both Ashwin and Binny can easily match and overtake Rohit's score in every innings.. With Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the mix, it will be a good batting side if not a great one.. But with Rohit in the team, India will essentially be playing only three and a half bowlers considering Ishant and Ashwin will form one and a half bowlers together..

  • on June 6, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    I can understand Roger Binny steps out of these meetings and I see and appreciate the point about transparency. But is Stuart Binny the best allrounder in the country now? Has anyone done a comparison with his performance and the one of Laxmi Ratan Shukla? We should see the stats of this year and the crucnh situations Shukla has performed single handedly carrying a weak side. 2 years back he had single handedly won the Vijay Hazare trophy singlehandely. Binny was successfull in last years IPL but this year he has played all the matches and has been a major failure. Shukla hasnt got much oppurtunities. Time for everyone to ponder. See each and every innings of Shukla this season in Ranji troph. All the innings played under extremee pressure Bengal were 30/4 or 40/5 in green tops and Shukla played blinders.Also played the match winning innings in a square turner in a make and break match against Tamil Nadu.

  • on June 6, 2014, 5:37 GMT

    great article. what could have selectors thought about umesh ? may be he had a bad go in domestic matches maybe

  • YogifromNY on June 6, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    Excellent article, Gaurav, as is usual with your writing. Thank you for laying out the issue (and the solution) so clearly. Hope someone at BCCI reads it and is inspired to act on it!

  • SouthPaw on June 6, 2014, 4:07 GMT

    Great post! BCCI should definitely provide a detailed selection report every time and substantiate omissions and commissions. For example why ignore Sehwag and not Khan?

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  • SouthPaw on June 6, 2014, 4:07 GMT

    Great post! BCCI should definitely provide a detailed selection report every time and substantiate omissions and commissions. For example why ignore Sehwag and not Khan?

  • YogifromNY on June 6, 2014, 4:40 GMT

    Excellent article, Gaurav, as is usual with your writing. Thank you for laying out the issue (and the solution) so clearly. Hope someone at BCCI reads it and is inspired to act on it!

  • on June 6, 2014, 5:37 GMT

    great article. what could have selectors thought about umesh ? may be he had a bad go in domestic matches maybe

  • on June 6, 2014, 6:56 GMT

    I can understand Roger Binny steps out of these meetings and I see and appreciate the point about transparency. But is Stuart Binny the best allrounder in the country now? Has anyone done a comparison with his performance and the one of Laxmi Ratan Shukla? We should see the stats of this year and the crucnh situations Shukla has performed single handedly carrying a weak side. 2 years back he had single handedly won the Vijay Hazare trophy singlehandely. Binny was successfull in last years IPL but this year he has played all the matches and has been a major failure. Shukla hasnt got much oppurtunities. Time for everyone to ponder. See each and every innings of Shukla this season in Ranji troph. All the innings played under extremee pressure Bengal were 30/4 or 40/5 in green tops and Shukla played blinders.Also played the match winning innings in a square turner in a make and break match against Tamil Nadu.

  • on June 6, 2014, 7:21 GMT

    I would pick Binny ahead of Rohit Sharma.. The innings he played against ROI in the Irani trophy is a testament to his abilities with the bat.. He is a good option in England where his style would certainly suit the conditions.. He should start.. If Dhoni is worried that batting would weaken, he can rest assured that both Ashwin and Binny can easily match and overtake Rohit's score in every innings.. With Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the mix, it will be a good batting side if not a great one.. But with Rohit in the team, India will essentially be playing only three and a half bowlers considering Ishant and Ashwin will form one and a half bowlers together..

  • venkatesh018 on June 6, 2014, 8:49 GMT

    The final sentence of the article sums up the anguish of all right thinking cricket lovers of the country. Superbly written piece, Gaurav.

  • Dysan25 on June 6, 2014, 9:21 GMT

    The selectors did a good job of picking the Test Team based on Domestic Performances rather than IPL. The Ranji Champions had good teamwork throughout the tournament and few players deserved to be picked. Hope that Stuart will be playing in some matches rather than benched.

  • on June 6, 2014, 9:39 GMT

    He has to perform now to verify his selection.Stuart Binny's status situation in Indian team is similar to that of Bangladesh in World Cricket. Lot's of talk and no result. My question would be: after that previous dreadful tour of England shouldn't we go for more reliable players instead of testing Stuart Binny. He can not move the ball more that what Praveen Kumar did on the last tour to England neither can he can generate more pace than Praveen kumar. I think we have learnt that you need pace to get English batsman out in English conditions. I would be more than satisfied if Bhuvi could get India better returns than Praveen Kumar. Rohit Sharma is the right choice but he has to start think like Virat Kohli, otherwise India will be in trouble again, once gain....Having said that all the best to Stuart Binny....

  • soumyas on June 6, 2014, 11:15 GMT

    he was picked first time for tough AWAY tours, there he got 1 or 2 chances thats all. Now also he is picked for away tour where every indian batsmen failed except Dravid, he is given tough exams to pass. what about Rohit sharma and Jadeja who failed on Indian soil repeatedly but still continues to get selected ? these players got multiple chances to pass easy exams. even before giving proper chances to Stuart people started taking, that is wrong.

  • Sekhar_S on June 6, 2014, 11:19 GMT

    Hasn't this been the case for many years now - questions on decisions, apart from the obvious choices, not answered satisfactorily ? About Umesh I hope he gets to play in the India A team which is going to tour Australia in July and play 4-day games against Australia A led by James Faulkner.