Sandeep Patil-led selection committee deserves a pat on the back for showing vision and guts

Emotional equation notwithstanding, the selectors have considered the fact that Yuvraj Singh has registered 160 runs from his last eight ODIs upon return to the international fold, which by no means, if picked, can justify his berth, especially when there are other worthy candidates in contention © Getty Images

By Karthik Parimal
 
The selection of the Indian cricket team often throws open the doors for a debate. While pundits, purists and fans may disagree on the inclusion (or exclusion) of one or more players, the general conclusion is: the selectors have, yet again, failed to do a good job.

The preceding selection committee chaired by Krishnamachari Srikkanth did little to change that view. In fact, that committee even let go the trust of a few who believed in their methodology, when, instead of introspection, they chose to take shelter behind India’s World Cup heroics as things went awfully wrong a few months later in England and Australia. Hence, when Sandeep Patil and his team took over the mantle, not many placed faith in their abilities to make some tough calls.  
 
In the October of 2012, Patil and his team took charge. While many were aware of Patil’s credentials as a coach, his Unique Selling Proposition (USP) as an administrator were still not vivid. “I hope Patil, or any Indian selector for that matter, realises that being popular is futile. A selector has to take hard decisions, which will often upset some people. He must disregard such sentiments and be ruled only by the thought of what is best for Indian cricket,” wrote former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar in one of his columns, echoing the sentiments of those who wished to see a different strategy being employed for progress of the team. Six months on, it’s hard to reject the fact that Patil and his colleagues have done a commendable job.

Performance before reputation
 
‘You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep’ is an oft-used proverb, and one that fits the previous selection committee quite well. Often, players’ performance (or the lack of it) would be answered by quoting statistics or their impeccable feats from the past. While backing selected players to the hilt is justified, the refusal to acknowledge and resolve deep-seated issues is tomfoolery. Struggling personnel were ‘rested’, not ‘dropped’ and discarded players, who did little to prove their return to form, were recalled owing to ‘unmatched experience’. In short, tough calls were seldom made and venturing out of comfort zone rarely happened.
 
Notwithstanding the clutter created by the previous committee, the new panel’s approach has been refreshing. Despite intimidating reputations of a few of the players, the current bunch of selectors have been unflinching in showing the door to them if they’ve failed to perform for a substantial period of time. It was made clear, in no uncertain terms, that they had been axed from the side and te only return route was to score more runs and take more wickets than the person who’d been freshly roped in from the fringes. They’ve also highlighted the fact that younger players who’re hungry to prove their salt on the big stage can yield better results than an experienced campaigner going through the motions, waiting for things to fall in place — the recently concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against England is a case in point.
 
Zaheer Khan was the spearhead of the Indian attack for the last few years, yet, when he didn’t deliver, and despite the bench being frail, he was sent back to the drawing board. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed were unearthed and the two did a fine job of getting under the opponents’ skin. It was then the turn of India’s longtime openers to be put on probation, and as they emerged unsuccessful from the litmus test, were duly asked to make way. Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan were the substitutes and they’re now a certainty in India’s plan for the future. Even Harbhajan Singh wasn’t dealt with special care; although picked for the series against Australia, it was made evident that he was not the team’s frontline spinner anymore. 
 
Under the new selectors, India’s performance graph has been on the up.
 

The trend continues
 
As the squad for Champions Trophy was unveiled on Saturday, the committee received due praise from noteworthy corners. Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh were discarded, and although eyebrows were raised at the exclusion of the latter, it must be said the move was well thought out. Emotional equation notwithstanding, the selectors have considered the fact that the southpaw has registered 160 runs from his last eight ODIs upon return to the international fold, which by no means, if picked, can justify his berth, especially when there are other worthy candidates in contention. 
 
Also, the absence of Sehwag and Gambhir from the line-up for a major tournament indicates that the selectors now have their sights set on the future — the 2015 ICC World Cup, which is just two years away — and the youngsters are openly being preferred. While most committees would have opted to go with the flow and bask in the glory of the past as opposed to instigating an overhaul and look to defend the crown, the Sandeep Patil-led panel has shown good intent. Perhaps the current bunch of youngsters will struggle to produce immediate results, but there is little doubt that the troop is set to become a formidable unit. 
 
There was the easy option of delaying the inevitable by allowing senior pros to act according to their convenience, but the current committee has taken upon itself to get down and do the dirty work. Presently, it may lead to a few sour grapes, but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise in due course of time. 
 
 
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal )