Officials must think before they answer

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SILENCE IS GOLDEN: The comments by Dilip Vengsarkar (right) on Virender Sehwag's selection may bring unnecessary criticism for Rahul Dravid (centre) should Sehwag fail to click. Photo: PTI
SILENCE IS GOLDEN: The comments by Dilip Vengsarkar (right) on Virender Sehwag's selection may bring unnecessary criticism for Rahul Dravid (centre) should Sehwag fail to click. Photo: PTI

Rohit Brijnath

We expect Vengsarkar to speak responsibly

Every now and then, I am tempted to send letters of gratitude to the BCCI, it's vice-presidents, managers, secretaries and selectors, both past and present. If it wasn't for their glorious lapses in judgement, how would we function? If it wasn't for their magnificent aptitude for leaking reports, speaking out of turn, going off half-cocked, revealing information they shouldn't, how would we fill sports pages?

And so what if every fresh controversy is a distraction from the real work of pursuing excellence, so what if it disrupts the team.

A bombshell

It was almost predictable that with the team settled in the West Indies, momentum on its side after recent wins, Dilip Vengsarkar, inadvertently you think, lobs a hand grenade into the calm about Sehwag's selection. The chairman of selectors is one of the good guys, both passionate and knowledgeable, but as much we relish his forthrightness, we expect him to speak responsibly.

If you did not care much for Vengsarkar, you might interpret his comment about Sehwag's inclusion being driven by Dravid as a convenient washing of hands, a bizarre distancing from a collective decision.

This does not seem the case. Yet even if you laud Vengsarkar's willingness to submit to the captain, to give him the team he wanted, you'd query his need to articulate this view in public. Selection is a tempestuous national debate as it is. For a selectors' chairman to divulge details of selection is unwarranted, to not realise the stir it would cause, prior to the cup, in a country where every cricketing morsel is chewed on a thousand times is naive.

It is unfair to Dravid, for every Sehwag failure at the cup will ensure a dissection of the captain's judgement; it is unfair to Sehwag for the selectors' admitted lack of faith further burdens him in an environment where India requires him relaxed; it is unfair to the team whose focus on the game's biggest prize is being interrupted.

Seeking fame

Then again, this team is well practised at trying to acquire greatness in the midst of anarchy. One week BCCI vice-president Shashank Manohar bellows for player payments to be withheld. Another week a manager's report detailing some intra-team ruckus is leaked. A third week BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi carps about the ICC. It is a procession of people seeking their 15 minutes of fame.

No boundaries exist in Indian cricket. In most organisations, only specified officials are granted the authority to speak. In Indian cricket, everyone is an authority, on everything. Officials holler away constantly, a sort of verbal lawlessness where the wider interests of the game are irrelevant. Everyone wants to be heard and look important.

Manohar's remarks about player payments should have been restricted to a committee meeting. But then who would know him? Everyone is loath to confine themselves to their role. Vengsarkar even offered a comment about Chappell's tenure as coach; as selector that is beyond his jurisdiction.

Similarly, in the leaked report over the alleged Chappell-Sehwag spat in South Africa, there is an outrageous comment by manager Chetan Desai about selection. When Dravid saw the pitch in Durban and apparently wanted Sehwag as an extra spinning option, Desai, as reported, wrote: "I objected, and told Greg, Dravid and Dilip that if it was a spinners' track, they could have Harbhajan in the team.''

Desai's sentence is laced with arrogance, for he presumes a manager, whose job is mostly ceremonial, is competent to lecture a captain, coach and chief selector on selection.

The problem

In all their wild pronouncements, rarely must it occur to officials that they are disrupting the team, or more importantly that they are in fact a part of the larger Indian team. And therein lies the problem.

The word `team' does not resonate strongly enough in Indian cricket, there is no concept among many selectors, vice-presidents, groundsmen of being in this together, of considering themselves part of some larger cause, of contributing in some small (and quiet) way to the success of the team.

Rarely do we pull together. Australia does.

Poor examples are being set by older administrators for younger players, who themselves will subtly discredit both teammates and coach off the record, worsening the very environment which they insist is difficult to function in. The media may be ubiquitous, and insistent, but it is hardly to blame here. Grown men must think before they answer. Not of themselves but the greater good.

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