The officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) love to set the cat among the pigeons. Never ever will they come clean with details that the media and countless Indian cricket fans are interested in. Two recent cases; one involving a battle scarred veteran and the other pertaining to a promising youngster, have been quietly put in public domain by BCCI ‘sources’.
Reports flew in about the future of the country’s most experienced cricketer and two time World Cup winning captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Sources, as always, had indicated that MS, as he’s popularly known, has decided to pull out of the Windies tour and spend some time with the paramilitary regiment where he’s an honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
It is 2019, the Supreme Court has virtually disbanded the BCCI and put it under the command of a Committee of Administrators (CoA). There are professionals now who run the organisation but the approach and attitude remains the same - avoid transparency, push out stories unofficially and fuel speculation.
The other case involves young Prithvi Shaw who made a dream debut last year and is currently struggling with a hip injury that he sustained while playing the Mumbai Premier League this May. His fitness status did not come officially from the BCCI but during an interaction he had with the media on the sidelines of an event his employer had organised.
Just like the case of wicket keeper, Wriddhiman Saha who has been out of the field of cricket since his injury two seasons ago. There was no clarity in terms of his fitness to play at the highest level till sections of the media posed questions to the BCCI. With Rishab Pant and Saha in the mix, it will be interesting to see who the selectors pick when they meet a few hours after this piece is written.
The Chairman of the selection committee, MSK Prasad and his team have the opportunity to sow the seeds of change in Indian cricket now. It is hoped that the team picked by Prasad and Co., will rise to the challenge of taking Indian cricket to a higher, better level.
So far, the team in all three formats - Test cricket, One Days (ODI) and Twenty20 (T20) has had, virtually, the same set of cricketers wearing India colours for the past five-odd years. Newcomers have been blooded into the side on a need basis and regulars have been holding on to their positions as a matter of right, barring injuries and lack of form.
In the pre-Dhoni era, one can recall two seasons when the wise men of yore disrupted the fabric of the team. The first was from 1969 to 1971 when former great Vijay Merchant brought in young talent when India faced Australia, New Zealand in home series’ and went on to tour the Caribbean. The Chairman gave his casting vote to Ajit Wadekar as skipper for that tour, replacing Mansur Ali Khan who had been the leader since 1962.
Calling it the new era of cricket, Merchant — known as a technician supreme — discarded renowned names like Chandu Borde, Bapu Nadkarni, etc., and gave Test caps to a generation of new talent. Players like Eknath Solkar, Chetan Chauhan, Ashok Mankad, Ambar Roy, the irrepressible Gundappa Viswanath and the master, Sunil Gavaskar broke through into the team, a few playing at the highest level for many years.
The second disruption, happened in 1989 when Raj Singh Dungarpur, as the head of the selection committee, surprised all and appointed Mohammed Azharuddin as the captain of the team to tour New Zealand. Worthies including Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, K. Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri were given the cold shoulder in an operation akin to a bloodless coup.
Results of both these reconstructions were different. While Merchant’s 1971 changes worked rather well for Indian cricket, Dungarpur’s operation, which he termed as “creating the team of the 90s,” saw the Indian team lose the gains they had made from 1983 till 1986. Whatever the results of these experiments, both Merchant and Dungarpur were men of stature, respected immensely by their peers and the players.
Once gain, Indian cricket is poised at a crucial juncture. For Prasad and Co., this is their chance to prove their mettle and come up with a winning combination that can take Indian cricket to new heights in the coming decade. Commentators of the game have pointed out that their decisions while picking the squad for the recently concluded World Cup left a lot to be desired. It is sad that people are picking on MS Dhoni as the prime reason for India’s loss. A complete disrespect for one who has brought laurels to the nation on the field.