x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Selectors' logic is warped

Short-term solutions need to be abandoned and India's exciting youngsters should be given their chance to shine.

Rahul Dravid has been a real gladiator for India in the Test match arena, but the selectors surprised him and everyone else when they picked him for the Champions Trophy, instead of going for youth.
Rahul Dravid has been a real gladiator for India in the Test match arena, but the selectors surprised him and everyone else when they picked him for the Champions Trophy, instead of going for youth.

I do not like the look of India's national cricket selection committee. And the fact the five-man panel includes two men - Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat - who did not represent India at the highest level is not the only reason. There is also the issue that the Indian selectors, led by the flamboyant former batsman Krishnamachari Srikkanth, are acting in a conservative fashion at a time when everyone needs to get aggressive if the country is to stand a chance of winning the World Cup in 2011.

No matter what the pundits say about the pressures of playing at home, the side's record proves they are most destructive on home soil and there is a realistic chance of India ending up in the top four before the cruel, unpredictable, knockout rounds begin. So where did Srikkanth and his committee go wrong when you look at India's Champions Trophy exit? Well, they went for short-term solutions. Rahul Dravid has been a real gladiator for India in the Test match arena, but the selectors surprised him and everyone else when they picked him for the Champions Trophy.

There was an amusing story about how BP Bam, a health expert who works with Dravid, revealed the former India captain was all set to go on a holiday when the one-day call up came. Another surprise was the inclusion of Ashish Nehra, who was brought in to bolster a pace attack which lacked bite in the absence of the injured Zaheer Khan. Dravid and Nehra were not disastrous in their comebacks, but their recalls showed that the selectors preferred experience over youth at a critical stage in Indian cricket.

The move seemed akin to playing for a draw when all that was needed was a little extra spark to turn a match back in their favour. The former player and now commentator, Ravi Shastri, did not hesitate to throw diplomacy out of the window when he pointed out the only new player the selectors had picked in recent months was Mumbai's Abhishek Nayyar - an all-rounder who only played in the last match against the West Indies because Sachin Tendulkar missed out due to food poisoning.

Nayyar has given a good indication of his ability in both seasons of the Indian Premier League and should be given more opportunities considering India are searching for an all-rounder. Another blunder, in my opinion, was the dumping of the talented left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who was shaping up so well in limited overs cricket. He was replaced by the leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who figured in India's Test triumph over Australia last year, but played his last one-dayer in 2003.

Was Ojha dropped because he had less backers on the selection committee than his colleagues or did he go because selector Narendra Hirwani, a leg-spinner himself, convinced his fellow selectors that Mishra was a better weapon? I would prefer to be the cynic in this case as I believe Ojha was bereft of backers. The dropping of the talented batsman Rohit Sharma was baffling too. The Mumbai man suffered an injury but that was after the selectors decided there was no room for him in the India team.

The same Sharma, essentially a middle-order batsman, was asked to open the innings in the ICC World Twenty 20 when Virender Sehwag broke down with a shoulder injury. Talking about Sehwag, you wonder what prompted them to take a chance on the opener when his injury troubles were known. The former Australian captain Ian Chappell was convinced that Sharma could follow in Tendulkar's footsteps when he saw him bat during the 2007-08 triangular series in Australia and one could understand Chappell's surprise when he saw India's Champions Trophy batting line-up without him.

Ojha and Sharma both played their parts in the success of Deccan Chargers in the last IPL, which was held in South Africa. Warped selection led to the business partner of a senior player in the team to write on Facebook: "Worst selection committee ever." In contrast, the Pakistan selectors seems to be getting it right. The world saw an exciting Pakistan team overflowing with talent on the batting, pace bowling and spin fronts although, like India, they need to improve their fielding.

That Pakistan has an area of weakness is only traditional. During the 1992 World Cup in Australia they had a big problem when it came to bowling accuracy. Their top bowler at the time, Wasim Akram, was giving away extras galore but it did not worry the captain Imran Khan too much. "Don't worry about the no-balls and wides, just bowl fast and get wickets," he is believed to have told his star paceman.

And that is what Akram did. His two deliveries to Allan Lamb and Chris Lewis in the final against England remain the very best bowled in one-day history. Like India and Sri Lanka, they have not improved on their World Cup tally. The Pakistan selectors have been brave and their young guns such as Umar Akmal, Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal helped them reach the Champions Trophy semi-final. India will do better if they take a cue from their neighbours.

India's inexperienced selection committee should give youth a fairer go. Only then will this cricket-loving nation be able to dream realistically about winning another World Cup in less than two years' time. Or is it too late already? sports@thenational.ae Clayton Murzello is Group Sports Editor of the Indian newspaper MiD DAY