Sometimes, just sometimes, you feel a touch of sympathy for India's
Whatever their affiliations - and this committee has a few - you cannot
conjure up wealth out of waste.
There is a very strange situation confronting Indian cricket, and the
selectors are the first in the line of fire. We have a whole range of
batsmen from whom to pick six, if not seven, and very very few bowlers to
make up the other six.
The granary is overflowing but there are no
vegetables and there are no spices.
Indian cricket has three bowlers of international standard in Javagal
Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble. For various reasons, neither
of those three could be picked and because of some poor early selections,
and subsequent lack of faith, a whole new team has had to be assembled.
And so we have six bowlers in this side, not a single one of whom was
even in contention ten months ago.
If they had built on the selection of even one out of Paras Mhambrey,
David Johnson and Dodda Ganesh, the attack would not have looked as bare
as this. From that point of view, the selectors have perhaps themselves
I would have thought all three would have been sent to the MRF
Academy straightaway to build on their obvious potential. Instead, MRF is
currently improving the skills of Lance Klusener, Chaminda Vaas and
It is all very well to feed your guests first, but you cannot then
complain of starvation.
Of the six bowlers in this side, only Abey Kuruvilla really picked
himself, and even he would be disappointed with his performance in Sri
Lanka. Debashish Mohanty, with six first class matches before the tour of
Sri Lanka, becomes second lead by default. And Harvinder Singh, with five
first class matches, is the reserve.
Navjot Sidhu speaks very highly of
Harvinder, and if he took five wickets against Pakistan A in the SAARC
Trophy, there must be something there.
I suspect Rajesh Chauhan sneaked in ahead of Noel David on the captain's
recomendation. Chauhan is a big-hearted cricketer who has this ability to
display his commitment and Tendulkar, in such desperate times, probably
prefers to have someone like him. David needed to be around, at least for
his fielding skills which stand out in such a ragged side, but he
probably lost out on his batting.
Having picked Kulkarni and Chauhan, and
aware that the three fast bowlers between them would not contribute too
many runs, the last bowler had to be able to bat in the lower middle
order. And that explains Hrishikesh Kanitkar's selection, though it has been prompted
by performances in first class cricket. I feel a bit concerned for him,
because such is the scarcity of all-rounders that he will be expected to
perform on both fronts. Having got his runs at number three against
pretty average line-ups, he will now have to go out at number seven or
eight and attack international class bowling (and make no mistake, even
without Wasim, Waqar and Mushtaq, this a decent Pakistan bowling
line-up). But now that he has been picked, it is important to stay with
him. We have had too many ad-hoc selections and cricketers are beginning
to look like tour managers - here today, forgotten tomorrow.
The need for greater depth in batting has also prompted the return of
Saba Karim. But we must tread cautiously here, because apart from an
initial half century which is propping up his average, he hasn't really
scored runs. When you pick a wicketkeeper for his batting skills, he
should be able to perform as an all-rounder. Can India play Karim at
number six and allow themselves five bowlers? My answer is no. But then, this
is a great opportunity for him - because he now has eight matches to prove
himself, without worrying about his place in the side.
You would normally believe that in a squad of fourteen, at least ten or
eleven players would pick themselves. That is an indicator of a healthy
side. Not more than six in this side (seven if you want to include
Kuruvilla) could seriously have planned to spend a fortnight in September
in Toronto. Five of those (Tendulkar, Jadeja, Azharuddin, Dravid and
Ganguly) are batsmen, and even Robin Singh is really a batting
If you ever wanted a statement on the skewed nature of Indian cricket,
this would be it.
Let's raise a little cheer too, for Jadeja's appointment as vice-captain.
It will do his morale, dented as it must have been by match-fixing
allegations, a world of good. I believe he is a committed cricketer, and
we have allowed him to be insecure for too long. I have always found him
to be very honest in his views, even when they concern himself, and I
think this appointment is a good one for Indian cricket.
Now, let us leave the selectors alone for a while. If you think a little
deeper, I think you will discover that they are merely a symptom of the
ills of our cricket - not its primary cause.