Saying that the Indian selection is faulty without analysing the system is incorrect, writes Makarand Waingankar
Our system is not even close to the depths that New Zealand's selection system has frequently reachedIn 1997, the BCCI did think of changing the system
We have been reading a lot about commitment, integrity and parochialism in Indian cricket. It is nothing new, but since a foreigner (John Wright) has now pointed to it, we tend to attach greater credibility to the charge that the Indian selection is faulty.
While the charge may be true, our system is not even close to the depths that New Zealand's selection system has frequently reached. And since John Wright has captained New Zealand, we recommend him and his friends to read another former New Zealand skipper Glenn Turner's book Lifting the Covers which has exposed the New Zealand Cricket Board's machinations.
The explosive book deals with the manner in which the New Zealand Board was running the game. Turner writes: "When Rick Picard, Mike Shrimpton and I chose the first team, NZC's Board wouldn't accept it because Ken Rutherford wasn't in it. Obviously many administrators think they know who ought to be in the team. That being the case, one feels like asking them why bother to have selectors".
The selection systems all over the world have been criticised and some Boards did change the system, but to accuse Indian selectors of parochialism and question their integrity without analysing the selections and the system is not fair.
In 1997, the BCCI did think of changing the system by appointing a nine-member committee. The committee even recommended that a three-member selection committee be appointed, but it has not been done because the East and Central zones had a drastically uneven roster of former international players.
Team Pawar too thought of changing the system but agreed that the present system is the best available option to select teams. If at all one sees a grey area, it is the manner in which the national selectors are chosen and that encourages the selectors' pushing players from their respective zones.
In the existing system, a selector of the zone is chosen by the representatives of associations from that zone. This puts the selector under pressure as he feels obligated to favour players of certain associations of his zone. And when that happens, all the five selectors keep pushing players from their zones.
If you analyse selections after Wright took over, on an average not more than two changes have taken place every time the selectors met. Thirteen out of 15 used to select themselves and for the remaining two slots, the selectors had to argue. Didn't this happen in the West Indies recently? Have Lara and coach Bennett King accused the selectors of parochialism?
The ideal way is for the BCCI to appoint a five-member Cricket Experts Committee which should nominate five zonal selectors, thereby getting rid of the process of representatives of the associations in the zone choosing a selector. The selector chosen by the experts committee will know that experts have faith in him and that will give him confidence.
To make the system more meaningful, the selector of a zone should be asked not to recommend players of his zone. This will make him talk about the other four zones. In the current system, a selector commends primarily his zone players, and having secured berths for those players, may not then get involved in the discussion. But when a selector talks about players of other zones, the arguments will have to be based on homework and observation.
The Cricket Experts Committee can make a reference document for the selectors to adhere to. If a zonal selector watches another zone's matches, he will be in a better position to argue the case. This is not happening now as the selector doesn't get to watch Ranji Trophy matches of another zone.
Also, since the lack of former international players in East and Central zones is no longer a problem, the committee of experts could also be of five cricketers of repute representing each zone so that a zonal selector and the expert of that zone could coordinate.
Glenn Turner, who scored 34,346 first class runs far more than any other New Zealander has tempered his criticism of the New Zealand Board by recommending a few suggestions. He was a cricketer of stature. He has to be taken seriously.