By Yajurvindra Singh
The Indian cricket team is progressing, as one in horse-racing terms would say, “in fine fettle”. Cricket in India has become a lucrative career option and so cricketers are now being unearthed from many nooks and corners of the country. The glamorous status that it exudes with the added incentive of pots of cash alongside has now emerged as a dream for any aspiring sportsman.
This was earlier possible by becoming a superstar in the Indian film world and Bollywood was the platform to do so. Many of the legends of the glamorous film industry made their fortune coming to Mumbai or Bombay as it was then called. Cricket has taken over from the pretentious super heroes of the scripted film industry to real time heroes.
The limited-overs cricket has added that additional amount of spice and hence cricketers now have become the villains and the heroes of the entertainment world. The cricket industry is flourishing in all aspects of the game, whether it be the media, journalists, event organizers, administrators, medical doctors, fitness trainers, corporate sponsors, coaches or the cricketers themselves.
The words — transparency and good governance — are being spoken of to showcase professionalism. The process is still in the stage of transformation but a path to it has been clearly demarcated. The one area that is now an issue of concern is the selection of the cricket selectors not only for the national team but also for all the age groups as well as the state teams around India.
The present national selectors, some of whose terms should have come to an end, have had a fair amount of criticism not only from former cricketers and ardent cricket followers, but also from the present players. To please one and all is a very difficult task, but the very process of a selector being appointed at all levels is an area that needs to be looked into very seriously in the competitive Indian cricket diaspora.
Cricketers now, from the very junior levels onwards, are giving their life to the sport and it should become one of the most important tasks for the Board of Control for Cricket in India to focus on. A proper structure for the appointment of a selection committee should be formulated in the constitution of every cricket association and establishment that fields a cricket team in India.
The selectors of the national team are the most important cricket committee members in Indian cricket. One needs to have played a certain number of matches as an international or national player in order to qualify. However, the folly of this system is that the five wise men are appointed through a zonal representative basis. The zonal based committee was there because one had to select a zone team for the Duleep and Deodhar Trophy tournaments. This old practice still continues even though the zone based teams have been discontinued.
The tenure of a selector, which is now being debated, is not as important as the credentials and knowledge that a selector brings to the table. The zonal format leads to favouritism and ‘my man’ concept. If the coach of the Indian team is being selected through an interview process, so should the selectors. It needs to be an open race for the five positions, after all it is now a paid profession and has to have some seriousness to it.
Similarly, the same process should be followed at the state level and at all the junior levels. Nominating at random is why aspiring and established cricketers are very critical of the present process and a change is the only desirable way forward.
A selector at the state level is still doing an honourary job and so to get a totally committed person giving a 100 per cent of his time is a rarity. This is where former cricketers can play a major part, if the casting is open to all of them. In addition, selectors at all levels should be adequately compensated for their time.
Selection is one of the most critical areas of cricket as it can make or break a cricketer’s career. Identifying talent among hundreds of aspirants is definitely not a picnic in the park. A thorough research, analysis of past performances, specific skill requirements for the team and the playing conditions are only some of the areas of selectors’ workload.
Being truthful, honest, upright and unbiased are essential characteristics that a selector needs to possess. More than age and conflict of interest, the BCCI has to put in place a system for selecting a selector. It has to have transparency and brilliance in all aspects.
The lives of many aspiring young cricketers are in the hands of a selection process that is full of bias and favouritism. The flow of talented cricketers that are being churned out without a proper system of selection are putting a blindfold on most of us. There are many talented cricketers who slip out of the net. Indian cricket needs to create a process that gives every talented cricketer a chance to showcase his ware.
The BCCI now has a cricketer heading it and one who has been through the ups and downs of the cricket selection process. A cricketer is always ready to face the failure and success that comes with the game of cricket, but a selection dilemma in his life, is something that hurts very hard. Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, two legends of the game whom we admire, have both been victims of the selection process during their cricketing days.
They have written about it in their respective published books. Ganguly’s book “A century is not enough” has tales of what he went through and similarly Laxman in his book “281 and Beyond”.
If Indian cricket needs to progress, the process of change needs to be first and foremost through a different selection system at every level. One prays that this will come into effect soon.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer)