Selections are always a tricky job. But the present state that the Indian cricket selection committee finds today needs to be addressed seriously. Like all times of distress, we can take inspiration from our past.

The important thing to note is that there existed a time when selections were made out of passion and not calculation.

More than a decade ago, there was a hue and cry when Tendulkar quit captaincy. Cricket lovers felt the selection committee had agreed to disagree with his choices. Kishen Rungta, who was one of the selectors when Tendulkar quit, had suggested that selection committee meetings should be telecast live.

The issue that Rungta was pointing out was transparency. This is perhaps the biggest issue concerned with selections today. Wesley Hall once said, “When I was dropped, each selector told me that he fought for me. Five selectors fought for me and yet there was no place for me in the 15!”

Last week’s three-hour long selection meeting to pick three teams, evoked more questions than answers. Analysis of the three teams clearly indicates a lack of vision and cricketing logic in the committee. The committee has been statistically oriented and not once has there been an instance of an obscure player being picked and given a long rope.

Shrewd selector

Lala Amarnath was known to be a shrewd selector. He selected 20-year-old Budhi Kunderan for India against Australia in 1959 after watching him in the selection trials of Indian Railways. Later, on the Ranji Trophy debut Kunderan scored an unbeaten double hundred.

Vijay Manjrekar was another selector who, at the State level, picked players from nowhere and backed them. He picked S. Srinivasan for the under-22 Bombay team after watching him in a local match. Srinivasan scored two brilliant centuries and was later selected for the Bombay Ranji team. When a selector questioned his way of picking players who had not performed in local tournaments, he said, “If I have to go by performances all the time, then the association can hire some statisticians and pick the team.”

Mamasaheb Ghorpade and Major General M.M. Jagdale would take positions on the ground to watch players. Chair in one hand and notebook in another, they keenly noticed technicalities. In the Ranji Trophy match between Bombay and Maharashtra at Kolhapur in 1972, Ghorpade watched all the spells of young fast bowler Pandurang Salgaonkar from different positions.

In the selection for the Pakistan tour of 1989, there was apprehension about selecting a 16-year-old boy called Sachin Tendulkar. But that is when selector Naren Tamhane uttered the famous sentence: “Tendulkar never fails”. Tamhane insisted and Tendulkar’s career began.

From the heart

These selectors showed us that the process of selection does not just get over after the trials. Choosing the right players formed the selectors’ life and conscience. They looked for passion in the game and found it in the most unexpected of places. They selected from their hearts, not from computing minds.

Unlike present selectors, who are each paid Rs. 40 lakh along with five star hotel accommodation and good daily allowance, these gentlemen were allowed a meagre daily pay, railway travel and stay in two star hotels for what they gave to the game. But the fact that they still went about their jobs so enthusiastically showed their passion.

Perhaps we need to appoint selectors who are passionate about the game, before they can select players. Huge sums as remuneration can’t be the answer.  

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