STILL smarting from the embarrassing exit from the World Twenty20 Championships, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has switched to the action mode. The first casualty, on expected lines, is the selection committee which has been removed and applications have been invited for a new set of selectors. In technical terms, the BCCI has refused to extend the contract of the Chetan Sharma-led selection committee but while all of them are eligible to apply for the post again there is a clear-cut message that the Board is done with the current set of people in the committee. The BCCI has clearly ‘moved on’ from the present group whose selection calls fell flat in a series leading upto the WT20 debacle. The rejig has begun in the right earnest but whether the BCCI is ready to wield the axe in the dressing room, too, will be known soon when the new set of selectors comes in and gives its own list.
The Chetan Sharma-led committee comprising Sunil Joshi, Debasis Mohanty and Harvinder Singh, is not the first one to face action for its picks. Selectors have remained in the eye of the storm since the day India started playing cricket. From the moniker of ‘Five Wise Men’ to ‘A Bunch Of Jokers’, selection committees have traversed a wide spectrum in all these years. Not that they are above criticism, but to be fair to the selectors they always keep the captain, coach and the senior players in the scheme of things before picking teams for a series or a big event. The sacked committee also had its fair share of good picks and also wrong selections but their role ended with the naming of the squad. After that, it was always the call of the team management to use the bunch at its disposal. So, while the blame must lie at the door of the selectors, the think-tank, too, must be held accountable.
There were many calls that demand a debate. It started from having a fixed top-order, resting players, managing workload and the rotation policy. All these calls were taken after the advise from the team management. The selectors did err in rushing Mohd Shami as a replacement of the injured Jasprit Bumrah and persisting with Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant but that again was the decision of the captain-coach combo as part of their game plan. The blame must be divided equally between the selectors and the think-tank.
As things stand in Indian cricket, the selectors always end up as unsung heroes. There have been former players like Kiran More and Dilip Vengsarkar who made significant departure from the set norms and introduced greenhorns to higher positions. They turned out to be masterstrokes and Indian cricket is still reaping rich dividends of the investments made by the then selection committees. It was possible due to the cohesive atmosphere in the BCCI ecosystem which sadly is missing in the Board’s functioning in the last few years.
The biggest example of the Board mandarins and the selectors not being on the same page was the captaincy saga involving Virat Kohli. There were conflicting statements on Kohli’s removal as captain by then chief Sourav Ganguly and chief selector Chetan Sharma. It pointed to differences among the executive and the selectors. The new set of selectors will have to ensure coherence in thinking as it involves the future of Indian cricket.