‘Immature of former players to say we as selectors don’t know our job,’ says Jatin Paranjpe

Jatin Paranjpe. File   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

Having finished his four-year tenure as a national selector, including almost 18 months when he couldn’t be a part of the panel due to the administrative muddle, former India and Mumbai batsman Jatin Paranjpe opens up about various issues during his stint.

Can you sum up your stint as a national selector?

It’s a little bit of out-of-the-ordinary kind of stint, you know, because we (Gagan Khoda and I) were out of the committee for 17 months. But overall for an ex-player to be given a selectorial duty is nothing less than an honourable thing to have because selection is the most crucial part of the puzzle in any sport. So obviously a matter of honour and a great stint. Worked with people whom I have known for a long time, like Ravi (Shastri), Virat (Kohli), Devang (Gandhi). There was a very high comfort level, basically.

You mentioned about the situation. Yours was a unique stint, marred with the administrative muddle. What sort of an impact did it have on your role considering the two of you were not in the panel for almost 18 months?

One of the objectives right at the start was to understand the thinking of the team management. I don’t think that was affected because of this absence. I was anyway in touch with Virat, with Ravi because they are friends more than anything else, so that wasn’t interrupted.

The second goal was how to set up a proper India A kind of calendar, which would provide cover for our most crucial tours like Australia, England and New Zealand, which I think we succeeded in doing.

The third was to try and watch as much domestic cricket as possible so that the players who are not picked don’t feel they’re not being watched at all. That was the path which was affected the most because I couldn’t watch domestic cricket effectively for 17 months. From an operation perspective, the impact was very hard. But the earlier two objectives weren’t affected much since we were still in touch with Rahul Dravid talking about India A; still in touch with MSK (Prasad) because we knew we’ll be back at some point. So the first two objectives were not disrupted thankfully.

How would you respond to a jibe that you are perhaps the luckiest national selector so far since for half of your tenure, you were compensated without really working?

To be honest with you, these comments are pretty immature. You get paid but you’re not allowed to do anything else at that time and people who know me should understand it a little better that I am well-placed to do a few other things which others are perhaps not well-placed to do. I couldn’t do those also.

Yes, it was a strange situation but at the end of the day, you know the kind of lineage I come from. I know that these things happen. I am what I am today is because of the BCCI. I spent a decade at Nike and the fact that I played cricket had a lot to do with that opportunity as well, so no hard feelings at all. People are entitled to their opinion but it’s lazy and immature thinking.

The general perception - and at times wider criticism by some of the greats - about the panel that you were part of is that it didn’t have the aura to counter the team management. Can you respond to it now?

I don’t understand what they mean by aura. I think in India we unfortunately think more is better in a way. I find it childish and immature of former players to say that we as selectors don’t know our job. I have played under Sachin Tendulkar’s captaincy for 10 years in first-class cricket. Hasn’t that taught me anything? I know a good cricket match when I see one.

Again I would use the word immature on the part of some of the cricketers who have played in three digits for India. It’s immature and unfortunate because they have been cricketers, we have been cricketers. They know how difficult this game is. And they know you need many things to succeed and probably only one thing to fail. I can counter them by saying I got injured, that’s why I went out of the Indian team. I wasn’t dropped from the Indian team. Had I not got injured, I could have played more for India. Do they mean I haven’t learnt anything about the game and leadership having played first-class cricket under Sachin Tendulkar’s captaincy for a decade?

Honestly, playing more cricket doesn’t make you a better selector. I think you need to have a certain bent of mind to be a selector. Otherwise, Michael Jordan would have been the greatest NBA coach ever, right? But he is not a coach. I think I was qualified to do this job. When they say I was a lucky selector, they don’t see I did talent-spotting for 10 years at Nike where my first signing was a guy called Virat Kohli. I had the gravitas to do it from that point of view. I just smile at the lack of maturity at these comments.

Do you think Indian cricket still requires at least the chief selector to have stature in terms of having played a certain number of Tests?

I don’t think so at all. Bent of mind is more important. Having an eye for talent is more important than the number of games you’ve played. Look at all the foreign chairman of selectors. How many Test matches has Ed Smith played, but he has a different skillset and they realise that. I absolutely do not subscribe that more is better for a chairman.

How much did the fact that you go back a long way with the captain (Kohli) and the coach (Shastri) come in handy while serving as a selector?

There are always conversations. When you share a certain level of comfort with somebody, those conversations become deeper and more spontaneous. I don’t think there’s a specifc incident as such that I can recall because I had a certain relationship with X, Y outcome was reached. But it just adds to the overall atmosphere of openness.

I think Ravi’s contribution is not being recognised. I have seen what Ravi has done to this team. When you double-click on Virat’s aggression and the team’s approach, one of the key reasons to that has been Ravi’s presence.

India cricket captain Virat Kohli with coach Ravi Shastri and national selector Jatin Paranjpe. File

India cricket captain Virat Kohli with coach Ravi Shastri and national selector Jatin Paranjpe. File   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre


Your colleague Devang Gandhi recently admitted that omitting Ambati Rayudu for the World Cup was a mistake. Do you agree?

I think we went with the best squad. The format of a 50-over game pushes you into a corner to have a sixth bowling option because 50 overs is a lot without a sixth bowler. I think may be the batting order could have been a little bit better in crucial games but I don’t think there was anything wrong with the squad that we picked for the World Cup.

Your last meeting in October also turned into quite an affair with the Rohit Sharma episode. Can you shed some light over it?

I think it’s a very simple process which was followed. The BCCI physio shares an Excel sheet of fitness status of players. Some players are available for selection, some are not available. Once there’s an unavailable for selection remark against a player, you can’t do anything about it and move on to the next option. That was the prognosis on Rohit. I think he played the IPL because only two-three games had remained, so one can push himself with a few injections. The mindset is different, the circumstances are different but going to Australia and having to play 10 more games across formats in the next two months is a different cup of tea when you are evaluation an injury status.

So can the national selection panel tell a contracted player to play or not play franchise cricket?

They are mutually exclusive of each other.

Can you spell out the finds during your tenure?

Shreyas Iyer. (Navdeep) Saini, definitely. Giving (Yuzvendra) Chahal a long rope. Bringing Sanju Samson back into the team and Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw. I must say watching Prithvi score that hundred on debut in Rajkot was one of the most satisfying times because here was a kid, we backed him. I think a world of him from a talent perspective.

I would also mention getting Deepak Chahar and Washington Sundar in white-ball formats. Washington was someone who wasn’t thought of as an off-spinner first, always thought of as a batsman first in Tamil Nadu more than a bowler. I think he would go on and play 50 overs for India as well. And one more name slightly lower in the rung is getting Ruturaj Gaikwad into the India A team. These are the faces that make you smile and feel you’ve done something to get these guys on the way in their careers.

Any instances of realising perhaps you all pushed a player slightly earlier?

Nothing like this comes to my mind about it. Quite satisfying overall.

Having worked with two captains for a while, do you think split captaincy works better in modern-day cricket? Or is Indian cricket still not ready for it?

My reposte to this is: if it ain’t broken, why fix it? I am hearing voices rising about why is Virat the captain. I think he is rightfully the captain in all three formats. He has won against Australia in Australia, we had 15 bizarre minutes at the World Cup and we were knocked out of the World Cup but what has he done wrong? If it’s not broken, what are you trying to fix it and it’s not broken when it comes to Virat’s captaincy.

How challenging does the selection committee’s role become with an increased number of exposure tours, at times clashing with domestic cricket?

It’s a heavy logistics dose and unfortunately when you have a shadow India A tour, your domestic cricket suffers and I felt genuinely bad about that. But there are things that are more important from a country’s perspective and unfortunately state sides have to bear the brunt of it. More than the logistical side, there was always a conversation relating to prioritization and unfortunately domestic cricket suffered because of that.

But it led to a perception that domestic cricket doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting selected in the national team…

I think that’s a very wrong comment to make. Domestic cricket is incredibly important for keeping the game alive and inspiring kids from that state and that city to take up sport. In India, we are lucky that cricket is not an endangered sport, everybody wants to play cricket but I think domestic cricket first is to inspire and then being the pipeline for kids to get into the game is never talked about. You’re always talking about the prioritization of domestic versus international cricket. But the existence of domestic cricket is extremely important. That is a much more important conversation to have.

What do you think is the most amicable solution to resolve the conundrum going forward?

It’ll have to come at the cost of something. More thought has to be given while planning the FTP. When the FTP is in the planning stage, along with India and India A, can you also put Ranji Trophy in that box and think of scheduling it in a way to allow India players to play at least three or four Ranji games along with India and India A?

I think the planning is very important but it’s easier said than done. These are crucial and commercial conversations eventually. It’s not only about the BCCI’s revenue, it’s about whom the BCCI is playing and their revenue. Today as we know, most international teams are struggling financially and they want to play India because they get three times the amount of TV revenue for that. One entire calendar year’s revenue is taken care of by one short India series. That will not happen if an India A team goes.

As you pass the baton, how do you see the health of the national team?

I think every year is a crucial year in international cricket but the next three years are terribly crucial because we have a world tournament every year. I think at one level, they will find that the work that has been done in the last four years in establishing an atmosphere of stability in the Indian team will serve them well and that stability has happened because of the team management. I think this will be a good time to translate that stability into something fantastic over the next few years. So yeah, it’s going to be an interesting time over the next 36 months.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 7:22:52 AM |

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