Former India left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi will take over as the chairman of the men's selection committee, which will have a second new face in former India fast bowler Harvinder Singh. Joshi and Harvinder will join the trio of Sarandeep Singh, Devang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjape in the new panel whose first job will be to pick the Indian squad for the three-match ODI series at home against South Africa, to be played between March 12 and 18.
Joshi and Harvinder's appointment was done by the three-member Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising Madan Lal, RP Singh and Sulakshana Naik on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the CAC had shortlisted five candidates from a broader pool of 40 applications forwarded by the BCCI. Along with Joshi and Harvinder, former India legspinner L Sivaramakrishnan, former India fast bowler Venkatesh Prasad, and former India offspinner Rajesh Chauhan were part of that shortlist.
As per the BCCI constitution, the most senior member on the selection panel, based on the number of Test caps, will become the chairman. Joshi is the senior-most member, having played 15 Tests, and hence the CAC recommended to BCCI that he become the new chairman of selectors.
Lal said that all the five candidates were "very impressive" during their interviews and the CAC had picked the "best" for the two vacant positions. Asked on what basis the five candidates were shortlisted, Lal said that the CAC was clear that it would pick one candidate each from the South and Central Zones respectively.
That meant the CAC had revived the zonal policy the BCCI had said it had discarded in 2016, when the three members (Sarandeep, Gandhi and Paranjape) had been appointed through an interview process. Incidentally, although those three candidates did take interviews, all five members of that selection panel, led by Prasad, represented the five different zones.
"One selector had to come from South and one from Central, " Lal said at a media briefing in Mumbai on Wednesday. "Our zonal system is one of the best. Keeping that in mind we have picked the best (candidates). We have picked those guys who were the best in those (two) zones."
According to Lal, both Joshi and Harvinder were "very clear" in their "thought process". Asked to provide an example, Lal said: "We asked them some pretty tough questions, but they were very, very clear and very, very straightforward. We asked them about their communication skills and how they would handle (communication) with the team management. Keeping all this mind, I feel the interviews we conducted were the best."
Some of the applicants in the broader pool are likely to be disappointed with the process, considering that there was no mention in the BCCI advertisement that shortlisted candidates were going to be filtered through the zonal policy. Among those who had originally applied were former India wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia along with former India fast bowlers Chetan Sharma, Ajit Agarkar and Abey Kuruvilla.
Asked whether the playing experience of someone like Agarkar - he had featured in all three formats for India - was considered, both Lal and RP Singh said it was naturally used as a yardstick, but in the end the choices were based on the zone.
Lal said those who missed out should not be disappointed considering three new vacancies would open up later this year when the tenures of Sarandeep, Gandhi and Paranjape come to an end. Lal was clear that the zonal policy would also be in play when the new selectors get picked.
"Regarding Ajit, see our zonal system is very good," Lal said. "This tenure is for one year. Once the tenure of other selectors is over, the CAC will sit again and to pick the new selectors in their place and we will review the performance of the selectors that we have picked."
The Kohli question
There was a perception about the previous selection panel, led by Prasad, that it was being overpowered by India captain Virat Kohli, who is a participant in the selection meetings. After the 2019 World Cup, where India were knocked out in the semi-finals, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar had questioned why the selectors had not reviewed the position of Kohli, whose tenure was only till the end of the global tournament. Gavaskar described the selectors as "lame ducks" then.
On Wednesday, the CAC was asked how the new selectors, including Joshi, would deal with Kohli. Lal pointed out that the communication with the India captain and coach would form key part of any selector's job and that point was stressed by the CAC during the interview process.
"Our captain [Kohli] is very big, his performances have been many and huge," Lal said. "We have paid attention to that point that the selectors can communicate with the captain. Because in the end the team needs to be run by the captain. Captain matters a lot to the team. We did raise this point during the interviews and we focused on the best answers on this topic."
According to Lal, the communication channels between the selectors and the team management, especially the captain and the head coach, need to be transparent at all times. Asked if the CAC had sought the views of the Indian team management, Lal said: "I'll put it in a different way. We have a team and unless you come on the same page, you cannot communicate among yourselves. It is all about Indian cricket and not about A, B or C. That is the important part of it. So that is what we thought about. So we asked them questions on which these two were brilliant."