Chief selector Kiran More's four-year term comes to an end later this
month. It has been a high-profile, often contentious period that has
seen tremendous change in Indian cricket.
You finally finish four years of what has been a controversial and high-profile term.
It’s been a great experience actually. In the beginning it was tough but later, as you come to know the players, make your own assessments, it becomes easier. The last two years have been very good. Any job has its share of problems and this is no different. We have tackled some difficult areas and, I believe, have tackled them well. Not just me, the entire panel.
It's a high-pressure job.
Not really, if you stay firm. We've taken uncomfortable decisions and stood by them. You cannot build a team overnight and you have to look at the future. We made decisions keeping that in mind - change was gradual. There has been talk about a need for change in the system, about paid selectors.
The system per se is not that bad, you need zonal representation because in a country as large as India, you need to see players from all over. Then, I don't think that if a selector is unpaid, he is not professional. Still, I agree selectors should be paid. They spend too much time doing this job, away from family and regular commitments.
There is often a criticism that selectors don't watch enough games, but how can they?
Paying selectors will ensure they can afford to take a break.
What other change would you suggest?
I think the Board has to give more confidence to the selectors by giving them longer terms. If someone is good, give him a longer term, even seven-eight years. Otherwise, if every year the appointment has to be made, then obviously a selector comes under pressure. He is only human.
Don't you think your being an association secretary (of Baroda) is in
conflict with your being a selector?
No, not at all, why should it be?
Well, your position in the association depends on the clout you wield among members — doesn't that clout increase if you can get local players into the team?
It depends on you. Zaheer is from Baroda and has been out of the team in my tenure. Irfan was dropped from the playing XI in the West Indies - selectors do get calls from their association officials about players. You explain things to them. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they don't but generally, if you explain properly, it is okay.
How difficult was dropping Ganguly?
Sourav was a difficult phase. He was captain and had been a great player. We really talked about it, all of us. But then, there was Rahul (Dravid).
He had started doing so well and had been vice-captain for so many years. Especially after the 2003 World Cup, there was a change - see their individual records as players. One leader's time had come and we all felt someone else had to take over.
Was it difficult with the wave of support for Ganguly?
All of us had debated it long and I was very clear about it. The media hype made things worse. But when you are dropped, you need good people around you. I have been dropped and went through that phase when people around you attribute reasons to the dropping.
India's culture is such that a person's dropping affects not just him but his parents, family, friends and the city. Soon, you forget about performing and instead, put on a performance. It is tremendous pressure and takes your focus off cricket.
Can Ganguly make a comeback?
Yes, he can. A strong domestic performance, a place in the team management’s plan, an open slot. Most cricketers make five-six comebacks.
Many people saw you as anti-Ganguly.
I am not anti-Ganguly. I am against no one. Sometimes players get dropped and they glare at you, stop wishing you. Players have said a few things to me, have argued, I have put it out of my head.
Was it similar when Laxman was axed from the World Cup squad?
I don't know what version you have heard but we knew why we did it and what the team management wanted. Then, we reached the finals, that was very creditable. It was not a question of one player, it was about the entire team.
Don’t you think it is humiliating to have players like, say, Laxman and Ganguly in the Champions Trophy probables list and not in the squad?
Not at all, there is no question of seniors and juniors. You are playing cricket, it is intensely competitive, you learn to fight it out.
If you're good enough, you come back. You can come back even at 40. In this day and age, with the emphasis on fitness?
Well, maybe not in One-dayers but definitely in Tests.
Who conveyed the decision to drop him to Sourav?
It was either Rahul or Greg (Chappell).
How tough has it been to deal with Sachin Tendulkar, to know when to pick him and when not to?
He is a great player and even 80 per cent fit, he is good enough to walk into any team. Every cricketer carries some niggle and plays with it. With Sachin, earlier it was his tennis elbow and now this shoulder injury. He played a bit with his tennis elbow, realised he couldn't and then had his operation.
Was there a disciplinary issue with Zaheer?
Not at all. If there was, it would all have been in black and white. Those were just rumours. We tried him in the Pakistan One-dayers but felt he didn't bowl well while the youngsters did. He has got to come back strongly and I am happy he is bowling well in county cricket.
Zaheer, like Nehra and Balaji, who have suffered injuries, is in the reckoning. We have eight or nine fast bowlers around and it is healthy competition.
Going back a couple of years, how did the whole Abhijit Kale episode affect you?
The media really played it up. Of course it disturbs you, what people are saying and you try and shut it out and concentrate on your work, on selecting. Everybody is human, any criticism can hurt but if your conscience is clear, nothing else matters. I don’t want to go back to that now.
Who would you think was the disappointment of your tenure?
I really have to think but probably, Aakash Chopra. Fantastic talent
and great temperament and we really believed in him and supported him
after his knee injury but somehow, he just shut himself down - mentally
more than technically, I think.
If you see his scores before he played for India, they were all big, but then he slowed down. Perhaps what affected him was the media hype about technical perfection, about him being the best-equipped Indian opener in a long time, maybe technique took him over.
It can be difficult to deal with, I know him very well and wondered. Only, the doors aren't shut for him, for anyone. An outstanding season, win a couple of games for your state, you're back in contention.
Don’t you think it would have made more sense to continue with the
selection committee till the World Cup?
I don't really want to talk about this issue. I have received great support from the BCCI and my fellow selectors and I am grateful for that.
What would you see as your contribution to the system?
I wanted to change the way things are done and I think I have in some ways. We tried to remove a zonal bias, and even in the West Zone we've tried to make changes. I am human, I can make mistakes but as long as I have done so in good faith, it is okay.