Fiasco may seem a harsh word. But actually, the choice of the word is inevitable as it best describes the chaos surrounding Tuesday’s selection of the Indian cricket team for the one-off Test against Bangladesh starting on 9 February in Hyderabad.
It projects not only the BCCI in a poor light, but also reflects on the terrible consequence of ejecting a system without first having a worthwhile substitute in place. The swiftness with which this sorry state of affairs has come about is appalling, considering that cricket is not merely a sport but also a means of livelihood to hundreds and thousands of those who are part of the ecosystem. And, if the manner in which the selection process was gone through on Tuesday is any indication, Indian cricket is surely in for a hiding.
BCCI joint secretary Amitabh Chaudhury might have believed that he was empowered by the BCCI constitution to be the convenor for the meeting. But the Committee of Administrators (COA), barring Ramachandra Guha, according to one report, had their own idea on who could summon the meeting and zeroed in on the CEO, Rahul Johri, to do the honours over conference call from Mumbai.
And so after spending hours to find out if their meeting was legit, the three-member selection committee finally went into a huddle late in the evening in distant New Delhi. As was to be expected, it was not an entirely different set of cricketers, but merely the ones who had done duty for India when even the likes of Chaudhury were convening meetings who were selected for the Test against Bangladesh. So after all, it was more of the same, irrespective of who convened the meeting.
Which then brings us to the Rs 8,000 crore question: If Chaudhury is deemed unfit even to summon a selection committee meeting, how is he going to protect the BCCI and India’s interests at the ICC meeting in Dubai later this week?
After all he, along with another Chaudhury, Anirudh, and COA member Vikram Limaye, has been nominated by the Supreme Court to negotiate of behalf of the BCCI at the ICC meeting. But if he cannot summon even a selection committee meeting, what sort of bargaining can he pull off for the BCCI?
To add to the confusion, there are already reports that the COA wants Johri and Limaye to attend the meeting and the BCCI’s GM operations MV Sridhar may also go to Dubai for the same. The Chaudhurys may even stay away from the ICC meet, according to some reports.
The Indian cricket team selection, the run up to which created so much drama on the day, was itself no big deal.
The one big message that it conveyed was that the team management and the selectors have run out of patience with Shikhar Dhawan. The selection of 27-year-old left handed-opening batsman Abhinav Mukund conveys just that.
Mukund is not expected to feature in a playing eleven consisting of two right-handed openers, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. However, his selection not only enables him to practise with a better set of cricketers, fitness experts and nutritionists, but also puts him in the short list if the right-hand-left-hand combination at the top needs to be revived.
For long, Dhawan or Gautam Gambhir was a part of the left-right concept but successive failures have forced the selectors to look beyond them. It also ends any speculation that Parthiv Patel would be the left-handed opening batsman the team was looking for.
Mukund last played for India in August 2011 during the Test series in England. His four centuries while leading Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy this season must have stood the left-handed opener in good stead.
Mukund may not be as aggressive as Dhawan, but he certainly will be a lot more solid in approach.
Unfortunately, Manish Pandey and Parthiv got the chop. Paceman Mohammed Shami continued to be on the injured list and was thus not considered. However, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha and Mukund have made their way back into the squad of 16.
Like Mukund, Rahane could be in the mix because the selectors want to send the right signals. Triple tonner, Karun Nair, the man in form, should be a shoo-in. But Rahane being around could work positively all around, especially with the tough Test series against Australia just around the corner.
It is possible that the selectors have opted for a 16-man-strong squad for the one-off Test against Bangladesh only for the players to bond better and prepare for the tougher Tests ahead. Shami probably would be in the mix by then as well. Even otherwise, in Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, there is a nice ring to the new ball attack.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja should lead the spin attack after a good, long rest post the England Test and ODI series. They were kept out of the T20 series and will welcome the opportunity to get back into the groove.
Overall, the side looks balanced, though one cannot get away from the feeling that the team has been picked as a precursor to the series against Australia which follows this lone Test.
The team: Virat Kohli (c), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Abhinav Mukund, Hardik Pandya.