Sandeep Patil was a swashbuckling batsman of his time and his term as chairman of the selection committee too began in a similar vein.
Ever since he came to the helm in 2012, Patil oversaw many tricky challenges during a period of transition for India. During his tenure, many seniors exited the team. Some, it is rumoured, were even eased out.
Perhaps the most controversial part of his tenure was when the country was grappling with the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. Reports suggested that Patil had asked Tendulkar to call it a day ahead of the hurriedly arranged three-Test series against the West Indies in 2013. Throughout the episode, he maintained a vow of silence. He didn’t break it even on Monday in what was likely to be his last interaction with the press as chairman of selectors. “There are some matters between the selectors and BCCI which should remain confidential and cannot be revealed,” Patil said.
The 60-year-old, who was chosen as selector following the sacking of his predecessor Mohinder Amarnath by the then BCCI president N Srinivasan, appeared to have been tasked with getting younger players on board. He stuck to his brief. Players like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja made their Test debuts when Patil was chief selector.
In terms of results, his tenure has been a mixed bag. While India were dominant at home in Tests, they did face a few shocks along the way. They struggled to win an away series outside Asia (except in West Indies), with losses in Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand. In limited-overs cricket, India failed to achieve its targets. They did win the Champions Trophy in 2013 but could not make it to the final of the 50-over World Cup in 2015. They finished runners-up to Sri Lanka in the 2014 World Twenty20 in 2014 while in 2016, bowed out to eventual winners West Indies in the semifinal.
It was also during this phase that India first experimented with dual captaincy. Catering to the needs of two captains – Virat Kohli in Tests and MS Dhoni in limited-overs – simultaneously was a task no other selector had performed before. Incidentally, Kohli has changed the playing XI in each of the 14 Tests he has led the side.
Patil played 29 Tests and 45 one-dayers for India. He went on to coach India briefly before becoming coach of Kenya whom he led to an improbable semi-final finish in the 2003 World Cup. A stint with the rebel Indian Cricket League almost marginalised him but he soon returned to the mainstream after cutting off ties with the league. That Patil was still interested in staying attached to the India team after completing his term as selector was evident from reports that he had applied for the post of chief coach this year.
That job finally went to Anil Kumble but Patil steps down having overlooked a transition phase most would have found daunting. India has come out of this period with a young team with an extremely competitive captain and Patil should be given due credit for that. On Monday, however, he had a chance to sign off with the same flourish with which he began his stint.
The focus was on Rohit Sharma, a star in his own right, when the selection committee sat to pick the Test squad for the series against New Zealand. But Sharma is an inconsistent performer, long admonished by critics for his haphazard display in the longest format of the game. Patil had the unenviable task of sidelining another star, as he had done in the initial phase as chief selector. However, as he walked into the sunset, he chose to not go out with a bang. He chose not to act and install another youngster, a task he had dutifully performed in the initial heady days as chief of selectors.