This season has thrown up some fantastic talent. The fundamental thing this selection committee is looking at is to develop good bench strength, considering the number of injuries happening right now. If our supremacy in different formats of the game has to last long, we need to have good bench strength.
We have always had two selectors travelling for the international games while the other three [remain here]. Now, during the Ranji Trophy season this year, we decided that only one selector will travel for international games. The other four will be watching domestic cricket.
"I take the responsibility to talk to the senior cricketers and tell them the reasons why they have been picked or why they have not been picked and what the committee is expecting of them"
There are quite a few instances. Priyank Panchal and Rishabh Pant; one of the knocks Ishan Kishan played - our selectors missed that game, but we got a detailed report about the match from the match referee.
It's a mix of both. That's why you should prefer India A tours to countries like Australia, South Africa, England and to an extent even New Zealand, where the conditions are really tough. That's where you are really tested. Otherwise, when it comes to playing in the subcontinent and against subcontinent countries for an A tour, I don't see much difference between them and our domestic cricket.
The BCCI is working towards having two or three India A tours, not just one per year. If somebody is injured, we have ready-made products with a bit of quality international experience. The issue is the itinerary. You have the domestic season, too, for six months, so where do you slot the A tours? The BCCI is still working out the details.
When we select somebody, we think four to five times. We give him enough experience in the domestic circuit and get him into the team. I don't know how it was earlier but our selection philosophy is simple. We have to look at a player who performs well in domestic cricket, select him, groom him and see to it that he goes on to become a match-winner, which will eventually help Indian cricket. Our philosophy is not to select a player, get a back-up ready and chop that fellow and get another back-up. This way neither the players nor the team will get confidence.
We are very clear in our thought process and communication. We took permission from the board and now we walk onto the pitch and talk to the players. The committee has taken responsibility to go and speak to youngsters like Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan. We tell them what we expect of them and ask them not to get carried away by the media hype they are getting. They need to come through the ranks. Suddenly someone asks why is Rishabh Pant not in the Test team yet, and there is a lot of hype around him. The player might have a false opinion: "I deserved a chance and never got it."
Anybody who comes through the ranks has a better scope of settling down in the team and eventually developing into a match-winner. But in odd cases, where you find an exceptional talent, it can be considered. But it is always good to come through the ranks, so that the player has better sustainability.
This selection committee is quite approachable and adaptable. We take suggestions from Dravid, Kumble, Virat [Kohli] and [MS] Dhoni, but we take the final decision on the players to be picked in the squad. The playing XI, of course, is decided by the team management, along with the selector at the venue.
That's one of the best things that has happened. The five members in the selection committee have all played together along with the team management, so the levels of understanding are very, very good. More or less, we are always on the same page.
"All the members of our committee make extensive notes of the matches we watch. When we sit at the selection meeting, everything is tabulated and each of us has the same data. We discuss at length and leave no stone unturned"
We have seen quite a bit of Jayant Yadav in Australia because Gagan [Khoda] and me were there. This selection committee has an international spinner [Sarandeep Singh], a middle-order batsman [Jatin Paranjpe], two openers [Khoda and Devang Gandhi] and a wicketkeeper [Prasad]. We cover all the disciplines of the game. When we pick a keeper, maybe I have greater input. When it's a spinner, there may be more inputs from Sarandeep.
The team management and the selection committee have a fantastic rapport, so if we raise something, they immediately accept it. If they have a requirement, like an opener or a middle-order batsman, we give them a ready-made solution. This is the understanding. Picking Parthiv is what the selection committee did, but if the requirement comes from the team management, say, if [Wriddhiman] Saha is not fit, they will ask for a keeper. We discuss among ourselves, pick that name and forward it to the BCCI.
Senior players, like Gautam or Yuvraj [Singh] or Shikhar [Dhawan], have all done exceptionally well and they are the country's legendary cricketers. So, on behalf of the selection committee, I take the responsibility to talk to the senior cricketers and tell them the truth about what exactly is the mindset of the committee, and place the reasons and facts about why they have been picked or why they have not been picked and what the committee is expecting of them, and that if they match up to these standards, they will obviously be looked into.
We have never ignored an Ashish Nehra or anybody else. The selection committee has no right to say to any player that enough is enough, because every cricketer has a right to play. Nobody has forced them to come into the game and now nobody can ask them to retire. Every cricketer has the right to play. This is their profession and this is what they live for. Retirement is purely the personal choice of the player.
I am very happy that everybody has come out with that because everyone is concerned about Indian cricket. I agree that we have played less international cricket, but we are working hard day in and day out to select players, groom them and make them match-winners and see that they have very good international careers, which we missed in our life.
The best part about the last committee and this one is that they are impartial. We don't talk about players from our own state or zone. That's why there is something called a "neutral policy" that we have adopted. We don't watch the matches of our states - for example, I don't watch an Andhra game and Jatin [Paranjpe] won't watch a Mumbai game. When we pick players, Sarandeep, for instance, won't ask for a player from Delhi. But I would have seen those matches and I might raise the issue of selecting that player. The neutral policy is a very good one and it worked well with the previous committee. We are continuing that and I am sure in the coming days, with the kind of openness we have, things will only get better.
Fantastic. The three qualities we associate with both Virat and Dhoni are integrity, passion and patriotism. It is very easy to communicate with them because our thought processes are along the same lines.
All of us are equally concerned and worried about the number of injuries among the players. As of now, we don't really have a concrete policy, but we will definitely sit with the team management and the BCCI and design a policy for workload management.
That's the reason I am saying we are working on bench strength and on slot-wise selections, so whenever there is a requirement, we know what fallback options are available. All the members of our committee make extensive notes of the matches we watch, and in the evening we exchange notes. When we sit at the selection meeting, everything is tabulated and each of us has the same data. The meetings are no longer five- or ten-minute affairs. We discuss at length and leave no stone unturned.
We can say that this committee has done a good job by picking Parthiv, Jayant and sticking with Karun Nair - and giving them a good run. We are early into our term. We can't really take the credit for whatever this team is doing right now, because the previous selection committee has really done a good job by investing in these youngsters. Our real challenge will be about developing good bench strength, picking the guys who are really doing well at domestic cricket right now, inducting them into the national team, and seeing that they grow into top-class international cricketers. Maybe three or four years down the line, when those boys keep doing well and win matches, that will be the best indicator of what we have done.
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun