The absurdity of the Indian selectors

Dixit Bhargav
|Published 28/10/2018

The absurdity of the Indian selectors: Of late, there have been numerous cases of the Indian selectors saying something and doing the opposite.

As the terms suggests, the primary task of a selection committee of the Indian cricket team is to select a team for an upcoming tournament. Since a national team is in the question, the selectors are expected to give reasons regarding both selecting and dropping players.

In an ideal world, the selectors consult the team management (chiefly comprising of the captain and the coach) before naming a final squad for their inputs are also crucial. Because the world we all are living in isn’t an ideal one, the reasoning part of the current selection committee has been going for a toss ceaselessly these days.

From the selection committee saying something and the exact opposite happening to the team management’s ambiguous views on selection, Indian cricket has been there and done that this year.

Varying criteria for selection

Appallingly, the criteria of selecting players for the national team has varied from ‘intent’ to ‘current form’ to ‘a good back-foot player’. While international players are being selected on reputation, performances of uncapped players seems to have taken a backseat. Players who do well in one format are seen playing the other at the highest level.

Take the example of Shahbaz Nadeem. The 29-year old left-arm spinner has picked truckload of wickets across formats in the recent times. With 51 and 56 wickets to his name in Ranji Trophy (India’s domestic four-day tournament) 2015-16 and 2016-17 respectively, he remained the highest wicket-taker for two consecutive years without a national recognition.

Since 2015 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (India’s domestic 50-over tournament), Nadeem picked 52 wickets in 24 matches (despite missing the 2017-18 season). In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (India’s domestic T20 tournament), Nadeem hasn’t featured in the Top 25 wicket-takers list since the last two years. But the selectors have handed him a maiden call-up to the Indian team for a three-match T20I assignment against Windies.

Not considering his nearly decade and a half First-class career, let us compare Nadeem’s numbers with the others who have represented India since 2014, a year before Nadeem started to dismiss the batsmen at will in the domestic circuit.

In ODIs, Parvez Rasool, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav and Washington Sundar have made their debut since 2014. Talking of List A average, economy rate and strike rate, Nadeem betters Rasool, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma, Jayant Yadav and Sundar in all three aspects.

While he also has a better economy rate and average than Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav is the only spinner who outshines him in all the three above mentioned fields.

In the given period, India have handed debuts to only three spinners (Karn Sharma, Jayant Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav) in Test matches. Talking of First-class numbers, Nadeem has a better average than Karn Sharma and a better average and strike rate than both the Yadavs. That being said, Nadeem has been called up for the T20I side. Assuming that he gets a chance to play and performs, he will be certain that he won’t feature in India’s next series for he has been only named in the series against Windies. Just imagine!

Reasons behind the recently announced T20I and Test squads

Let us move on to the T20I and Test squads now. Announced on a late Friday night, both the squads comprised of surprising inclusions. The 18-member contingent consisted of Test comebacks for Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay and Parthiv Patel. After being dropped midway during the England tour, Vijay took to county cricket to score one century and three half-centuries in a bid to announce form. Dropped, scored runs and came back. Fair enough!

On the other hand, the duo of Rohit Sharma (78 runs in two matches at an average of 19.50 and a strike rate of 41.05) and Parthiv Patel (56 runs in two matches at an average of 14 and a strike rate of 44.45) were dropped from the Test squad after their below par run during the tour of South Africa.

After drubbing Windies 2-0 in the Test series earlier this month, on being asked about Wriddhiman Saha, coach Ravi Shastri was quoted, “You can’t look in the past, you’ve got to go on current form.”

While Rohit Sharma hasn’t played a First-class match since the tour of South Africa, Parthiv Patel played a couple of Duleep Trophy matches, scoring 91 runs including a half-century. What forced the selectors to go back to a duo which hasn’t performed in this format recently is ‘a good back-foot player’ and ‘a left-hander who can bat anywhere’.

If Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel were to be taken to Australia, why on Earth were they dropped for the three series which India has played since the tour of South Africa?

Assume if Rohit Sharma’s back-foot impresses the captain and the coach in Australia, you never know if they might play him ahead of Hanuma Vihari, who scored a gritty half-century on debut against England at The Oval. What would a young player’s mindset be like, who after playing a praiseworthy innings has not been given another chance? And what about Shastri’s emphasis on ‘current form’? Apparently, neither out of Rohit Sharma or Parthiv Patel has been among the runs in cricket’s ancestral format. Sounds like different selection strokes for different blokes.

Talking about the T20I squad, Washington Sundar has been named in both the teams. Post a below par IPL, Sundar played three matches each for Tamil Nadu and India C in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy respectively. With the bat, he scored 14, 0, 19 and 6 in four innings. With the ball, he picked up four wickets in six matches. Wonder what would be the reason behind his selection? Going back to the past? Back-foot game? Current ‘poor’ form?

Amidst all this convolution, sometimes it seems like the selectors have forgotten that India’s domestic season runs for more than six months and that players can be given a go on performance in domestic cricket as well.

Communication or lack of it?

Communication is another facet of Indian selectors which has come under the scanner since the tour of England. While Karun Nair and Murali Vijay were standing on the other side, Umesh Yadav and Kedar Jadhav have been in favour of communicating with the selectors.

Jadhav’s case is the recent one in this genre. Giving an update on Jadhav’s injury, Chairman of Selectors MSK Prasad had said that he’ll be coming back after the first two ODIs against Windies. After not selecting him for last three ODIs against Windies, Prasad was of the opinion that the selection committee didn’t pick him because of his history of fitness. Wasn’t that history visible while giving the earlier statement?

In a bid to test his fitness, Jadhav was roped into the India A squad to play the Deodhar Trophy. Supposing that India A will qualify for the final, Jadhav was expected to play a couple of matches. As it turned out, India A didn’t qualify for the final. Even when the selection committee’s initial motive of testing Jadhav’s fitness wasn’t completed, he was named in the squad for the last two ODIs.

Agreed that Jadhav is a vital player in India’s ODIs line-up. But as a Chief Selector of the Indian cricket team, saying something and sticking to it would still be better. Won’t it?

The same had happened when Prasad had confirmed in the media that Mahendra Singh Dhoni will play the Vijay Hazare Trophy. In what should have happened but did not for Dhoni’s poor form this year, questions were yet again raised on Prasad’s statements in the public.

Acknowledging India’s success at home, the team is yet to stand tall on its potential outside the sub-continent. Given the way the selectors have taken decisions in the recent past, one can only ponder about what logic goes behind taking them. With the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 coming up, the selectors and the team management are expected to be more reasonable (and stand by those reasons).

Read some of the recent Twitter reactions on the selection committee below:

 


About the author
Dixit Bhargav

Dixit Bhargav

Born and brought up in Pathankot, Dixit Bhargav is an engineering and sports management graduate who is currently into his fifth year as a Cricket Editor at The SportsRush. His first cricketing memory dates back to 2002 when former India captain Sourav Ganguly had waved his jersey at the historic Lord’s balcony. What followed for an 8-year-old was an instant adulation for both Ganguly and the sport. The optimist in him is waiting for the day when Punjab Kings will win their maiden Indian Premier League title. When not watching cricket, he is mostly found in a cinema hall watching a Punjabi movie.

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