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Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash Subramaniam is a writer. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography .

We need to make Indian selectors earn their big bucks

It was announced recently that the next batch of selectors of the Indian cricket team will each be paid 60 lakh rupees per annum. Let’s take a moment to consider that princely sum. Does it seem a tad too much? Maybe it is. But that’s only part of the incredible story. Each member of the somewhat underperforming lot was paid only Rs 40 lakh last year. And they say the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is striving to become a more professional body. How so?

If the BCCI was serious about running itself better, it ought not to have given the new selectors a fat pay hike. Considering how poorly the selection committee’s most important brand – the Indian cricket team, not the Indian Premier League (IPL) – has performed during the past twelve months, this is not the most opportune time to dish out raises. Then again, we’re probably wrong in viewing the BCCI as a meritocracy. It’s more a plutocracy, which, come to think of it, also happens to be the class calling the shots in India. This is, after all, a country where most of the CEOs of Sensex listed companies gave themselves raises; all during a period in which the Sensex delivered poor returns … for the third year running. Shouldn’t the selectors be introduced to a system of performance-based remuneration? Unfortunately, the BCCI is not beholden to do anything of this sort.

Is the BCCI paying its selectors like Sandeep Patil (right) too much? AFP

It is a well known fact that the BCCI is a privately run body and that its brands are not public properties. Legally speaking, the organization is not answerable to the citizens of this country, and has every right to conduct its operations in the manner of a closely-held fiefdom. Still, the team of players it puts out does go under the name ‘India’, and there is no doubt that the people of this country feel deeply emotional about it. Much, much more than they feel for, say, a Nirma, an India Cements or any other brand belonging to an Indian corporate body. Put simply, the BCCI is playing with the country’s emotions. For this reason alone, it should be held accountable for what it does with, and to, Brand India, which is represented by players its highly-remunerated selection committee picks … mostly incompetently.

Speaking of players, the members of the Indian cricket team are given graded annual contracts. Irrespective of how they perform during a series, they continue to be paid the same amount for the entire year. They are, however, re-evaluated at the end of each season and fresh contracts are handed out based on past performance. This seems fair. This is far from the case with the selectors. No matter how the team the committee picks performs, its members are paid their handsome salaries for the next five years, so long as they don’t rock the boat. This is preposterous. No?

If one of the key players the selectors pick turns out to be fit enough to play for only one day of the entire series – Zaheer Khan, for instance, on India’s tour of England – shouldn’t the lot be pulled up for letting him get on the team bus without ensuring he is able enough to perform at his best for India? When the India is hammered in two successive series abroad, shouldn’t the selectors, instead of poor Abhinav Mukund and unfamiliar conditions, be held responsible for the catastrophe? The BCCI makes big money from milking the patriotism of Indians that support its team. Its selection committee should not be allowed to put out anything less than an outstanding product for public consumption.

When it comes to performing consistently, the Indian cricket team is only slightly better than Pakistan’s. In fact, the same can be said about the general state of affairs in all walks of life in India. So much so that one wonders if Indians really want a cricket team – as opposed to individuals – that can be counted on to deliver more often than not or, for that matter, a culture of excellence in general. If we do, it’s not going to happen magically. Indians must push, and push hard, for a meritocracy. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude must be replaced by a ‘nahi chalta hai’ approach to responsibilities. A step in that direction is to ensure that the people who screw up are dealt with, swiftly.

If the BCCI truly wants to be seen as a professional body, it must look at linking selector remuneration to team performance on a year-to-year basis, just like it is for its players. But who is going to make this paranoid, secretive private body that, ironically, owns a national property do it?

The writer tweets @Armchairexpert. You can follow him if you’re into that sort of thing.