Mohinder Amarnath's personality presents a study in contrast. He was very aggressive and bold on the field but very quiet off it. Provocation can get the lid off his otherwise cool temper, as he showed in 1989 at Bangalore when he was unceremoniously dropped.
As he represents North Zone in the selection committee, it may be presumed that the exclusion of Harbhajan Singh had his approval. Usually the zone representative tries to back senior players from his zone but like Bishan Singh Bedi, who took the initiative to drop Kapil Dev in 1984 when he played a poor shot in the Delhi Test against England, Amarnath either didn't object or may have recommended the dropping of Harbhajan.
Harbhajan's caustic reaction that he ‘wasn't hurt, but was surprised' makes one wonder whether present-day cricketers are willing to reflect on their performances. Do they possess a critical eye when it comes to their own selves?
In the past 12 months Harbhajan has picked up only 20 wickets in an equal number of ODIs at an average of 40.55 and 51 wickets in 24 Test innings at an average of 41.16. Do these figures make a case for his inclusion? Certainly not!
When a senior member of the selection committee allows a senior cricketer to be dropped, it establishes that performance is the only criterion. Harbhajan has been given enough leeway. Not only did he miss the opportunity but he also never resembled the bowler that he once was.
Ravichandran Ashwin shows the makings of an international bowler. As he goes along he will learn the tricks of the trade. At the moment he is bowling better than Harbhajan and one shouldn't be surprised if he is picked for the West Indies series. That will boost his confidence.
In order to assess the bench strength three teams were selected for the Challenger Trophy. Thanks to the quota system, which is a curse to Indian cricket, the level of skills that was on view was awful and many amongst them were in the tried and tested category.
Despite Amarnath setting a great example and showing the way forward with the omission of Harbhajan, some national selectors continued to indulge in pushing players from their respective State in the Challenger Trophy teams. How could the selectors miss out all-rounder Stuart Binny and some players with potential in the tournament?
Robin Uthappa is back with a bang. He has always been an aggressive player. He seems to have realised the straighter he plays, with the punch and exquisite timing that he possesses, better the chances he has to put up a good score. And that is what really matters.
J & K coach Bishan Bedi says of off-spinner Parvez Rassol ‘if there is a better offie than him in India then I don't know my cricket. He is not only a very good bat but a brilliant fielder'. A big compliment and the selectors will have to monitor the player's progress.
If the Indian team has to do well on the Australia tour, the selectors have to choose the probables now and let the coach concentrate on those players. As Rahul Dravid says, Duncan Fletcher must be given the freedom and space to work on each player. This approach helped the England team under him perform. Let's encourage the approach.