Former India batsman Krishnamachari Srikkanth is the chairman of selectors © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Selection in India is not professional and it’s open to abuse in all sorts of ways – John Wright.

 

The comment by an insider privy to the regional tugs, horse-trading etc speaks volumes about the selection system in India. Over the years we have seen quite a few cases of strange selections, leading to unexpected names wearing the India cap. John Wright, the former India coach, devoted an entire chapter in his book Indian summers dealing with the Indian selection drama as “Unnatural Selection”.

 

The national selectors are yet again in the news – for all the wrong reasons – after picking the team for the Emerging Players Tournament. The entire drama surrounding the selection of the Indian squad for Emerging Players Tournament is absurd and laughable.

 

On July 2, 2011, the Indian selectors named the team to represent India in the Emerging Players Tournament to be held Down Under in August. The Shikhar Dhawan-led squad includes the likes of Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Rahul Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayadu, Manish Pandey, Ashok Menaria, S Anirudha, C. Gautam, Iqbal Abdullah, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, and S. Aravind. The inclusion that attracted attention was that of Anirudha, the son of the selection committee chairman, Krishnamachari Srikkanth.

 

The selectors had justified the overall make-up of the team, including the selection of Anirudha, by saying that they were under the impression that the tournament would feature limited overs games along with the three-day matches. Traditionally, the Emerging Players tournament featured T20s and 50-over games as well, but the format has been changed this year and will feature only three-day matches. The selectors further said that the squad they had chosen was “covered” for the longer version.

 

It is very hard to accept the first justification that they were unaware of the change in the format of the tournament. This is because the alteration was accepted by all the Boards of the participating teams a few months ago. It is hard to believe that the selectors weren’t relayed the information before they selected the team. Such a detail is pivotal in deciding the make-up of a team and it is absolutely absurd that the selectors were supposedly unaware of it. If the selectors knew about the change and are just making excuses, then it is an absolute abuse of power on their part. If the selectors weren’t informed about the change by the officials in the Board, then it is the Board that has to accept responsibility for its unprofessionalism in this matter. Either ways, it is a sad situation and highlights the fact that anything can happen in Indian cricket as far as selection is concerned.

 

The second justification given by the selectors is even more ridiculous. They say that the squad is “covered” for the longer version. When you look at the team it includes Saurabh Tiwary and Anirudha, who haven’t done very well in first class cricket in the 2010-11 season. Here are their stats in first class games in the most recent Indian domestic season:

 

Player

Matches

Runs

Average

100s

50s

S.Tiwary

3

113

22.60

0

0

Anirudha

6

251

31.37

0

1

 

These stats do not merit a place in the team for a tournament which is considered a launching platform for young talent. Tiwary is a young talent, no doubt, but there are other youngsters in the country who have better numbers in first-class cricket and merit a place ahead of him in a team which is supposed to play three-day games. Anirudha’s stats suggest that he has scored just one fifty and it just shows that he isn’t a force to reckon with in the longer version of the game.

 

When you look at some of the young players in the domestic circuit who have done well, you would say that they deserved to be in the team ahead of Tiwary and Anirudha. Amit Verma, the 24-year old batsman from Karnataka scored 851 runs in the domestic season stroking two hundreds and seven fifties along the way. There are others like Naman Ojha and Ishank Jaggi who have done really well and yet haven’t come in the picture. People may say that Tiwary is a bright prospect and should be given a chance on such A tours. To some extent it is acceptable, but it is unfathomable as to why Anirudha gets a place in the team with just one fifty in first class cricket in the most recent domestic season.

 

Another selection that can be questioned is that of Varun Aaron. The hype around Aaron has been about his pace, but in the first class season he picked up just 13 wickets in five games. On the other hand, Pankaj Singh was the top wicket-taker in first class cricket last season as he picked up 53 wickets in 11 games. Despite this brilliant performance, a seat on the flight to Australia eludes him.

 

Thus, we have been a witness to another selection drama in Indian cricket. The justification given was even more appalling. The World Cup is back with Team India after 28 years, the No 1 Test ranking has been achieved, and yet we have such flaws in the selection process. This certainly isn’t the stuff of champions. Tournaments such as the one in question should be used to groom young players who have runs and wickets behind them.

 

One can safely say that if John Wright wants to release a revised edition of his book, he can add this episode to the chapter “Unnatural Selection.”

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)