LONG BEFORE the much-publicised Abhijeet Kale-Kiran More selection-for-bribe issue could hit the headlines, the selection process in the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association was rocked by serious charges against Gopal Sharma, Sashikant Khandekar and Fasahat Ali.
The issue was aggravated with over a dozen young cricketers blaming the UPCA selection committee members in writing and persuading the then BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya. Later, the issue was somehow ‘settled’ by the UPCA think-tank. The BCCI itself came forward to give a clean chit to the selectors.
The genie of ‘manipulation’ in the selection process of junior cricket is out of the bottle again in Uttar Pradesh. So far, no one has alleged payment of money to selectors to get a place in the under-15, 17 and 19 teams. But there is a question mark over the selection process.
For instance, two young cricketers Yasir Kaleem and Sunil Yadav were recently drafted into the probables of the under-17 Vijay Merchant team despite being overage. Just two days ago, Yadav was dropped from the squad after a medical test. Kaleem is still in the team. These two cricketers were declared overage in 2004 during an under-15 knockout match between UP and Orissa in Kolkata.
After losing the match, the then manager of the UP team Ashok Bambi had protested against a few Orissa boys. The Orissa team had also charged the UP team with fielding overage players. The issue was even discussed at the top level. The BCCI had threatened to debar both the teams.
While going through the junior teams of different age groups, one finds that the selection committee led by former Ranji star Neeru Kapoor seemed to have a soft corner for inmates of the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College. Each team had a good number of players from that institute among the probables. For instance, Karan Wadhva was among the 41 probables of the under-17 team. Last year, the boy could score just three and four in a match. Ishan Sahu, who had scored 52 and 25 in the semi-final, was not included in the list of probables.
The case of Mitrakant Yadav of Gomtinagar Hostel was similar. The left-arm bowler took nine wickets in 2004 for the under-15 team. But this time he wasn’t even considered for the under-17 probables. Despite being declared ‘unworthy’ in 2004, Gagandeep Singh of Kanpur was inducted into the under-17 team.
Left-hand batsman Devendra Tarolia of Gomti Nagar Hostel was sent out only after the second round during the under-15 trials this year. The boy didn’t lose heart and approached the selection committee for another chance.
The boy justified his selection by scoring an unbeaten 101 for the under-15 team against Vidarbha just a few days ago. But why was he ignored earlier? Nobody has anything to say. The non-selection of another boy Udit Pratap Singh of Agra puts a question mark on the ‘ability’ of the selection committee.
The boy has been drafted into under-19 team, but has been ignored for the under-17 team where he was especially underwent seven rounds of batting.
Neeru Kapoor, while refusing to accept any ‘favouritism’ in the selection system, claimed that since the committee had no information about the age and other records of an individual, so there was no question of any mistake committed by the committee.
“Observing 1200 boys in three days was very difficult. I think the UPCA authorities should put curbs on district units about the number of participants in the trials.”
“Since sports college and two cricket hostels are premier institutes, we pay special attention to their trainees, so getting more boys from these institutes in the teams are quite obvious,” said Kapoor.
He also justified the selection of Shivansh Sharma, Mritunjay Yadav and Udai Mishra in all the three teams of juniors. “They are good enough to remain in all the three teams. For talented youngsters, selection is a big encouragement,” he added.