Why didn't Srikkanth speak against Dhoni's captaincy as chairman of selectors?

The Krishnamachari Srikkanth-led selection committee was at the helm back then and not once did they condemn such an attitude © AFP

The last 18 months have been nothing short of a catastrophe for the Indian cricket team. They’ve lost a Test series at home for the first time in eight years and will finally be forced to accept the fact that the whitewashes at England and Australia weren’t just aberrations. A few spots in the side are rightfully being questioned and changes now seem inevitable. Whether an overhaul at the beginning of this year, after the forgettable tour of Australia, could have averted this debacle at home can be endlessly debated. However, the time has come for the current bunch of selectors to take a firm stance and redefine the role of every player in the side.

Post the 2011 World Cup, the selectors seldom made tough calls, despite there being glaring issues that needed immediate addressing. It was taken for granted that the horrendous phase would either pass or be forgotten once India’s home season began.

In fact, a few senior players openly issued statements as to how most teams were invincible at home and why there wasn’t any need to panic if plans went askew overseas. “We need to realise that when we go overseas every country prepares wickets to their own strengths. Once these people come to India we should not be hesitant in making turners, and that’s where we would get to know whether they are mentally strong, and [what happens to] the kind of chit chat do they do when we go overseas and they talk about our techniques,” said Gautam Gambhir.

This statement by the Indian opener was made during the January of 2012. The Krishnamachari Srikkanth-led selection committee was at the helm back then and not once did they condemn such an attitude. When a few of the selectors had lost faith in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ability to lead the Test side, it was apparently Srikkanth who insisted on retaining Dhoni. “At that point in time there was a lot of speculation regarding selection matters, which were unwarranted. All I can say is that we won as a unit and when we lost it was a collective failure. It would have been an injustice to make skipper MS Dhoni the scapegoat for Test losses,” Srikkanth said.

There was little doubt that Srikkanth, as chairman of selectors, backed Dhoni to the hilt till the end of his tenure. Blame the batsmen, not Dhoni, he said, after India were thrashed by Australia. Hence, it’s now surprising that a man who was against shifting the powers during his tenancy is now calling for a major overhaul when he no longer has to take the tough call. “Dhoni’s become stale and doesn’t know what to do when things go out of the way. He shouldn’t be the Test captain anymore. Had I been the chairman of selectors, I would have picked Dhoni as a wicket-keeper batsman but it is time to look beyond him as a Test captain,” said Srikkanth after India conceded the series on Monday.

The fact that the pointer on Srikkanth’s opinion scale has moved from one extreme to the other is amusing. When India failed consistently overseas and struggled to stamp their authority at home against relatively weaker teams, it appeared as though Srikkanth and his entourage were oblivious to the situation. One got the feeling that they often played it safe by refusing to drop underperforming seniors and drafting in players who’d done little to prove that they learnt from their past mistakes – Harbhajan Singh being the case in point.

There is no denying the fact that Dhoni’s position at the helm needs to be reviewed, but shouldn’t the previous group of selectors be equally accountable for India’s current downfall. The chinks in the armour of the team were blatantly exposed last English summer, but there were absolutely no signs of introspection in the aftermath of that breakdown. Had that selection committee come down hard on the players and made an example out of the situation, things would probably not have reached this stage now. From being the top ranked team in Tests and winning the most coveted trophy in international cricket, India has now reached a point where if they do not take drastic steps, immediately, to remedy the situation, then resurrection is going to be a distant dream.

It is often said that with great power, comes great responsibility. If the men who mattered back then had indeed managed to take some tough calls, they’d have been respected for having the long term vision of getting Indian cricket back on the right track. Proclaiming from the side-lines rarely helps.

(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)