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Giving Indian Premier League a miss a bizarre move by BCCI’s national selectors

Selectors travel to all domestic matches, including the T20 Mushtaq Ali tournament, and accompany A-sides on away tours. They should ideally observe watch India’s young talent in a high pressure ‘live’ situation during the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well.

cricket Updated: Apr 27, 2017 13:49 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times
IPL 2017,Indian premier league,BCCI selectors
Indian Premier League is the most competitive domestic T20 league in the world with some of the best in the world providing a stern test for the young Indians playing in it. This year, many young Indian cricketers have come to the fore including Mumbai Indians’ Nitish Rana (23 years), who has been very consistent with the bat and is the fourth highest scorer in IPL 2017, with 266 runs at a strike-rate of 138.03 in eight innings. (PTI)

While the IPL plays out in 60 matches across India, the MSK Prasad-led national selection committee gives the tournament a total miss. Instead, the country’s selectors follow India’s premier domestic tournament and the most competitive cricket league in the world on television over dinner like the rest of us.(IPL full coverage)

The IPL snub is bizarre considering our normally high threshold of accepting the unusual. Selectors travel to all domestic matches, including the T20 Mushtaq Ali tournament, and accompany A-sides on away tours. So why not watch India’s young talent to judge their potential, technique and temperament in a high pressure ‘live’ situation? Only a vague explanation is available that this has been the standard practice since IPL began. (IPL points table)

Giving IPL a miss is not the only odd thing about Indian cricket’s selection system. The Lodha Committee decided the BCCIneeded three selectors not five, challenging logic on two counts.(IPL match results)

First, the present arrangement was working fine, why mess with it? India has 28 first-class sides, almost 1000 players so five selectors are not too many. Australia with six first-class teams has four selectors.

Secondly, shrinking the panel is flawed on principle itself. The Lodha panel categorically said cricket matters are best left to cricketers yet the learned judges (certainly no cricket experts) decided to support this hugely technical call on selection.

The BCCI has made important changes to its selection process. Earlier, selectors were appointed by the BCCI working committee. Last season these posts were advertised, with an eligibility criterion of minimum 50 first-class games. After applications were shortlisted and candidates interviewed,Sarandeep Singh, Debang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjpe made the cut.

Establishing a transparent process is a step forward but BCCI rules still give the president a veto over the Indian team. It’s odd that qualified selectors pick the team but theoretically the president still has the final say.

Like the BCCI, the DDCA also decided to clean up selection issues. It too advertised the posts after incorporating the Lodha Committee guidelines, including conflict of interest and eligibility. In fact, the DDCA had stiffer eligibility criteria compared to the BCCI because representing India and playing 20 first-class games was a must. A state selector therefore was more qualified than a national selector.

Delhi overlooked off-spinner Sarandeep Singh, one of the applicants for the R6 lakh per annum job. The rejection was a blessing; Sarandeep made it to the national selection panel which gave him a hefty R60 lakh annual salary.

Selection requires judgment, an eye to spot talent and a long-term vision about team culture, balance and leadership. It is a thankless job, like wicketkeepers whose lapses get noticed over much good work. It was whispered that the three-man MSK Prasad-led national panel was ‘lightweight’, unequal to the task. The panel had a combined experience of 13 Tests whereas Ishant Sharma alone has played 77.Yet these very selectors made inspired calls and India are the top Test team in the world, beefed up by quality talent on the bench.

(Amrit Mathur is a former sports administrator who worked with the BCCI as a media manager. The views expressed are personal)

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 13:40 IST