India’s selectors are considered professional. Unlike the old days (before 2008) when the job was done on an honorary basis, being a selector now means getting paid. In 2018, it was decided that their remuneration will be increased to ₹90 lakh per annum and the chairman of the panel with get ₹1 crore. It’s a good thing as being a selector isn’t easy. They have to travel all over India, watch tons of matches, see their decisions get scrutinised and still not get paid as much as those on the Indian team’s support staff.
Now, does professionalism only mean getting paid? It may not for others but BCCI’s definition is just that. On Monday, the 15-member squad that will represent India at the ICC T20 World Cup was named. The board sent a press release with some basic information. The squad was named and it was also announced that Hardik Pandya, Arshdeep Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be reporting to the National Cricket Academy for conditioning related work during the course of the home series against Australia and South Africa. But that was that.
There was no explanation why the players were picked or why some others were left out. There wasn’t even the effort to try and answer some of those questions in the release as, for example, Cricket Australia, or the England and South African boards regularly do.
Professionalism is not just about having the requisite skills for the job. It also means transparency—stakeholders, decision-makers and the public have access to the data, reasoning and supporting information that underlies the opinions and conclusions. It demonstrates integrity and builds trust.
But the studied silence of India’s selectors only shows that BCCI simply doesn’t want the public to know, or to be more exact, doesn’t care what the public wants. The current contract restricts selectors from talking to the press about selection meetings—so how will fans ever know why a Sanju Samson was left out of the team instead of a Rishabh Pant, who clearly hasn’t yet found his feet in the format.
Again, the question on the mind of every fan: where will Virat Kohli bat? Do the selectors see him as an opener or do they believe No 3 is his best position? Did they ever consider dropping him? Was he always going to the World Cup no matter what?
That isn’t the only question. Where should Suryakumar Yadav ideally bat? To most, the right-hander seems a better fit at No 3 than Kohli. He can play shots from the first ball and might even be able to make more of the field restrictions in the Powerplay overs. What is the team management thinking and do the selectors agree with that thought process?
Ravindra Jadeja’s injury has thrown a spanner in the works. He was supposed to be India’s left-handed batting option but with him gone, Pant comes into the mix. That in turn means Dinesh Karthik has had to sit out for some matches. So, while all that talk of experimentation is fine, who do the selectors think should be in the playing XI? Pant or Karthik or, as Sunil Gavaskar said, both?
Some, former chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth for instance, felt Mohammed Shami should have been in the squad but the pacer hasn’t played a single T20I since the last T20 World Cup. Did that mean he was never in their plans and they had decided to back young blood? If that is the case, why is Shami in the reserves?
In Deepak Hooda, India have an off-spin bowling option but the selectors have persisted with R Ashwin. The obvious question is why not Ravi Bishnoi? The young leggie bowls lovely googlies and clearly isn’t overawed by the occasion. He is also a better fielder. However, the selectors went with Ashwin. Why? We don’t know.
The questions can go on. There is so much to ask and understand. But the selectors can’t talk, except when they are ordered to like when chairman of the panel Chetan Sharma called a press conference on 31 December, 2021 to refute the charges made by Kohli. So, they do have a voice but it is one that will never be heard on selection matters; which is rather ironical given that they are selectors.
Understanding their point of view or logic will only allow fans to appreciate the game better. At the end of the day, their silence is a disservice to the sport and all those who follow it. This isn’t a cloak-and-dagger operation. It’s just cricket, a game as MS Dhoni would so often remind us. The sooner the BCCI understands this, the better.