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Entire Mumbai selection panel steps down in a rush

Ajit Agarkar arrives at the late Ramakant Achrekar's house at Shivaji Park Hindustan Times via Getty Images

In a bizarre move on Friday, Mumbai's entire five-man selection panel resigned hours before the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) ad-hoc committee meeting on Friday that was to decide their fate. Chairman Ajit Agarkar and his colleagues Nilesh Kulkarni, Sunil More and Ravi Thakkar emailed their resignations to the ad-hoc committee and the MCA CEO CS Naik on Friday afternoon. The resignations came after the conclusion of Mumbai's domestic season even though there had been moves to end their stint mid-season.

Creating further chaos, the former Mumbai pair of Amol Muzumdar and Sahil Kukreja, two of the four members on the Cricket Improvement Committee (CIC) that picked the selection panel, are understood to have tendered their resignations on the same day. The MCA, however, has not made any public statement yet on whether it has accepted the resignations.

It is understood that Agarkar told the MCA that he did not wish to continue next season as he wanted to focus on personal commitments. The CIC is scheduled to meet on March 19 to decide on the next step.

Although the resignations appear to be a sudden development, the pressure on Agarkar's selection panel had been simmering for months. It eventually boiled over at a Special General Meeting (SGM) of the MCA in February, where some of the members - the clubs - passed a resolution directing the CIC to remove the selectors. The members said that they had "lost confidence" in Agarkar's panel, who they accused of not watching enough club games.

The CIC, which is headed by former Mumbai and India fast bowler Raju Kulkarni, overruled the resolution "unanimously", saying the selectors' commitment was beyond question.

This was an unprecedented situation. On one hand, the MCA members were now calling for the selectors to be removed; on the other, the CIC, set up by their own managing committee, was against questioning their commitment. In a bind, the four-member ad-hoc committee, comprising Naik, MCA secretary Unmesh Khanwilkar, Shah Alam, Naveen Shetty and Ganesh Iyer, is believed to have taken legal advice before Friday's meeting. It is understood the ad-hoc committee conveyed to the selectors they couldn't set aside the SGM resolution.

It is understood the selection committee has not been popular with the MCA members. Parsee Gymkhana vice-president and secretary Khodadad S Yazdegardi sought the removal of selectors through an SGM back in July 2018, but didn't succeed. The matter also died down as Mumbai began the season by winning the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The move against the selectors regained momentum when Mumbai failed to make the quarter-final of the Ranji Trophy this season, which led to the meeting in February where the resolution to sack them was passed. Mumbai, however, bowed out of the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with a win against UP in the last Super League game on Tuesday, which wasn't enough to ensure them a berth in the final.