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The road not taken until now

Tuesday, January 31, 2022
Rohit Bhaskar
Sydney: The last time India flew in to Sydney, immediately after losing the Boxing Day Test, captain MS Dhoni was not a happy man. It wasn't just the loss in Melbourne that left him peeved, the captain had a larger issue that he wasn't pleased about - his limited say in the selection panel.

Speaking to HT before boarding the flight to Sydney, Dhoni lamented how he would give a list of players to the selectors only to find many of them he wanted not named in the squad. “I don't have a say in selection. I ask for certain players, send it in writing to the selectors and when the squad is announced their names are missing,” said Dhoni.

After his fine showing in the ODI series in the Caribbean, India coach Duncan Fletcher went up to Rohit Sharma and said he wanted him in the Test side. “After that innings (match-winning knock of 86 in Antigua), Duncan came up to me and said, 'I can't believe you're not in the Test squad',” Rohit told HT in an interview soon after that tour. India has played 11 Tests since then, and he is still to make his Test debut, despite the repeated batting failures overseas.


The above two examples illustrate how little say the India captain and coach have in team selection. It has long been known how much influence the market forces have in the players who do and don't get selected, with the bigger brand names given more weightage than actual performance. After being whitewashed in back-to-back away series, shouldn't the BCCI review its selection policy? The issue that Ian Chappell raised on the star culture prevailing in the Indian dressing room is a pertinent one. What makes it all the worse is that India has a captain and coach who have in the past made bold decisions.

It was here four years ago that Dhoni, fresh off leading India to triumph in the inaugural T20 world championships, asked the selectors that he didn't want ageing heroes Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in the ODI tri-series that followed the Test series, instead opting for younger faces. The ploy worked well as India won that series with many new names emerging. In his time with England, Fletcher opted for a host of unknowns, but with a vision that they had what it takes. Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Steve Harmison and Simon Jones are just a few examples of players who flourished under his regime.


Compare BCCI's methods with the revamped selection policy of Cricket Australia after the Argus Review which followed last year's embarrassing Ashes loss in its own backyard. One of recommendations was to have both the captain and coach as part of a five-man selection panel.

In the limited time that it has been implemented it has worked well. Just think of the new names Australia has unearthed over the past six months. Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, David Warner, Ed Cowan and Mitchell Starc are among the many new faces who've earned their Baggy Greens since the new policy was implemented.

Speaking of his own role in the selection panel, Australian captain Michael Clarke said, “I think it's been good to be able to voice my opinion. Obviously, you're only one of five votes. More than being a selector, it's the communication with the selectors that I've really enjoyed.”

As Dhoni said, at present there is a complete communication breakdown between the selectors and the team, which is why a team that has lost eight straight away Tests hasn't changed the batting order, much less the team.

HT Content & Syndication Services