On October 19, the annual general meeting drew to a close at Hotel Taj Palace in Mumbai, with former India pacer Roger Binny succeeding former Team India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
There was also a brief discussion on whether to discuss the important matter of giving an extension to the senior selection committee, led by Chetan Sharma, or keep it pending till the end of the T20 World Cup in Australia. The general consensus among those present was to discuss it after the conclusion of the T20 World Cup, which was taking place in Australia until November 13.
Yet the selection panel members – Chetan Sharma (North Zone), Harvinder Singh (Central), Sunil Joshi (South) and Debasish Mohanty (East) – seemed to be on a knife’s edge. There was a certain unnerving quiet. The time had clearly come for a complete change in India’s selection setup. This was cemented by India’s 10-wicket mauling at the hands of England on November 10.
The warning signs had been piling up in India’s fight against South Africa in October – the famed Indian batting lineup had a rare off-day, scoring less than seven runs per over to finish at 133 for nine wickets in 20 overs. Though the match was decided in the last over, the Indian bowlers just did not seem menacing enough to stop South Africa. There was also the World Cup opener against Pakistan, which Team India only managed to win because Pakistan failed to keep its composure at the end of the game.
The doubts of the four selectors proved right on November 18, when the Board of Control for Cricket in India sent out an email asking eligible former players across India to apply for the post of selector. Even here, there was no mention of the status of the old panel. Had the fab four been sacked?
As per highly placed sources in the BCCI, there was no “sacking”, as had been in reports following this November 18 advertisement.
“They are all eligible to reapply,” a source explained, “if they or any of them have not completed four years as selectors.”
In simple terms, Chetan and co. can again submit their applications for the post of senior selector as all of them were appointed in 2020 or 2021. However, all of them will have to go through the process of interviews before the Cricket Advisory Committee. Only West Zone candidate Abey Kuruvilla, the fifth man in the selection panel, completed his team in February, and no one has since replaced him.
Whether or not they reapply is something we’ll know only after October 28, which is the last date for applications.
Incorrect choice of starting XI
It is no secret that former India speedster Sharma – who became famous or infamous after Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad smashed him for a last-ball six to lead Pakistan to victory in the Asia Cup final in Sharjah in 1986 – was appointed selection committee chief in 2020 due to his close association with the BJP.
For this precise reason, everyone was convinced that Sharma would have few problems and would obey directives from the top without raising any fuss, as the BCCI is led by none other than Jay Shah, the son of union home minister Amit Shah.
It is worth noting that Sharma, who was the convenor of the BJP sports cell before becoming chief selector, had been in the running for an MLA ticket from either Kalka or Faridabad. Before that, he contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Faridabad on a BSP ticket. He finished third, securing 1.14 lakh votes. In the same year, he quit the BSP and joined the BJP.
Back on the cricketing turf, no one in the BCCI had the slightest idea that Sharma would face the toughest opposition from none other than Team India chief coach Rahul Dravid. Chetan and company had a difficult time convincing Dravid and other members of the team management committee of their choice of players.
The biggest squabble occurred when Dravid chose to play Dinesh Karthik over Team India’s X-factor, Rishabh Pant. Having single-handedly won matches in England and Australia at the age of just 23, Pant had become a household name in the last two seasons. But Dravid, and skipper Rohit Sharma, opted to go with the experienced Karthik in the key T20 World Cup games for reasons known only to themselves.
It is learned that, as per the team management, Pant “lacked fitness” and that’s how Karthik got the chance in the playing XI. But within the BCCI, no one is buying this excuse.
“Once a player proves his worth as a big match-winner at the highest level, it is the duty of the team management to ensure that proper attention is being paid to such talent by the training staff,” said a source.
Another sticking issue was the omission of right-arm leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal from the starting lineup in favour of Ravichandran Ashwin. As England’s opening duo of Jos Buttley and Alex Hales dominated the game, the bowling unit underwhelmed after a setting of 169 against England in Adelaide. There was no bowler in the squad who seemed to trouble the English opening pair. India excluded Chahal from the playing XI throughout the tournament, despite him being their key wicket-taker before the start. This raised many eyebrows as the team management had consistently put faith in Chahal during the last two seasons. On the other hand, Ashwin was preferred in Tests but was not given a chance in white-ball cricket during the same time.
“Not playing Yuzi was a big mistake again,” said the source, referring to Chahal. “He has played T20 cricket around the world. Look at Adil Rashid or even part-time English spinner Liam Livingstone who made such a big impact during the T20 World Cup. Whoever chose to pick Ashwin over Yuzi made a big mistake.”
Why was the selection panel completely disbanded?
Over the past few months, the selection committee came under fire for its contentious and questionable decisions, culminating in India’s elimination from the T20 World Cup. One of the main reasons, sources said, was that Chetan Sharma “was not decisive or forceful enough while making decisions”.
During his tenure, there was no settled squad; too many experiments were carried out with respect to the Team India squad. The panel appointed eight international skippers in one year to purportedly manage workload. This turned out to be a joke within team circles, a source said, after KL Rahul was picked for T20 cricket after a gap of almost eight months.
The result was Team India losing two World Cup games by 10 wickets, the first against Pakistan during the 2021 T20 World Cup, something that had never happened before in Indian cricket. There were also allegations against the selection panel of “ignoring both domestic and IPL performers while picking squads for both the T20 World Cups”.
Insiders claim the BCCI wants to name a separate head coach and captain for T20. Dravid would then be limited to Test and one-day cricket only.
But is there any truth to claims that former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni – whose team Chennai Super Kings was closely examined during the 2013 spot-fixing scandal – might lead the new panel? The source said, “According to current BCCI hiring guidelines, only those former players who have been retired for at least five years can apply. Therefore, such a possibility is impossible.”
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