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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

Selection debate: Take aggressive than defensive approach for young, back-up players - Opinion

Unlike in the past, selectors are professionals today, paid handsomely to spot, follow and pick talent. They surely would be loath to do anything that affects their credibility, and consequently financial interests.

cricket Updated: Apr 18, 2019 10:23 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
New Delhi
Mumbai: Chairman BCCI Selection Committee M.S.K. Prasad address the media during a press conference at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019
Mumbai: Chairman BCCI Selection Committee M.S.K. Prasad address the media during a press conference at the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019(PTI)
         

When the late Raj Singh Dungarpur was chairman of selectors, I once asked him how much influence captains had in picking a team. “Very little or very much, depending on personality,” he was candid.

“Pataudi and Gavaskar, for instance, always got the players they wanted, others didn’t,” said Dungarpur. “For a captain to get his way, he must not only be clear in his mind, but forceful about who he wants and why.”

This was the time when team selection in India was viewed with great scepticism, by fans and particularly players, and immortalised by Mohinder Amarnath’s ‘selectors are a bunch of jokers’ statement when he was omitted for a series.

In those days parochialism and favouritism – by selectors and strong captains – could play a significant part in selection. It is reasonable to believe things have changed drastically for the better.

ALSO READ: Ravi Shastri reopens number 4 debate days after squad announcement

Unlike in the past, selectors are professionals today, paid handsomely to spot, follow and pick talent. They surely would be loath to do anything that affects their credibility, and consequently financial interests.

The stakes have become even higher for the captain in terms of prestige and money. In the past, there were undoubtedly some given to picking players for support in the dressing room rather than on cricketing ability. That syndrome has hopefully collapsed.

Selection is always a subjective process and individual preferences will differ. But I would like to believe one-upmanship and cat-and-mouse games between those assigned the task are passé. Today, there is far more common ground between the two factions when choosing a team.

Unless some crisis warrants an overhaul of the team, most players select themselves. The tussle, as it were, between selectors (among themselves or collectively against the captain) is usually restricted to very few candidates.

Take for instance choosing between Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu and K L Rahul/Vijay Shankar for the World Cup squad. These were vexing decisions, and have been the source of much debate in the past few days.

ALSO READ: BCCI reacts after Ambati Rayudu’s sarcastic tweet post selection snub

Karthik and Rayudu are experienced players in whom Indian cricket has invested heavily in the past couple of years. Pant and Rahul are precocious, dashing youngsters, touted as match-winners, albeit somewhat error-prone. Shankar has emerged as a robust late-bloomer.

This was somewhat different from choosing Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja. For all the brouhaha over Karthik versus Pant, the comeback of Shami and Jadeja (with no dissenting voice), who had been discarded from ODI cricket till six months back, makes for a remarkable story. Or two.

But coming back to the two crucial selections in the batting order (one also as back-up wicket-keeper to MS Dhoni), the toss-up in my opinion was between being adventurous or conservative.

In the case of Rayudu (admittedly in poor form lately) and Rahul/Vijay Shankar, the selectors have plumped for youth. However, where Karthik and Pant are concerned, they’ve gone for experience.

On the face of it, this might seem like a conundrum. But team selection does not necessarily follow linear logic. Several factors like current form, team composition, and back-up contingencies come into play.

I am inclined for an aggressive rather than defensive approach, especially when it comes to young back-up players, as that would be investing in the future.

What’s most pertinent in the situation is the captain’s position.

What weightage should be given to his opinion?

I believe a substantial amount, unless there is overwhelming justification (recent performances, fitness, etc) to go otherwise. All said a captain puts far more on the line. If he is left feeling vulnerable, it is not only unfair, but can have serious ramifications.

I hope the team selected has Virat Kohli’s buy-in and confidence to win the World Cup. Best of luck!

First Published: Apr 18, 2019 10:13 IST

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