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Where's the wisdom, cricket's wise men?


OLD BOY'S CLUB: There has hardly been a murmur of protest over Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan's return to the Indian team

Former India cricket captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth would surely like to forget the end of his international career. A host of ducks in the 1992 World Cup saw the departure of the swashbuckling opener, and now 20 years down the line, when he has to leave the chairman of selectors' post, he isn't exactly going out in a blaze of glory.

The last year of the Srikkanth-led selection committee has been nothing short of disastrous. The group of five, who were pretty much consistent in the first three years of their tenure, seemed to lose the plot totally as India's performance went from bad to worse.

Be it the dropping and the subsequent return of Harbhajan Singh, the removal of Gautam Gambhir from the post of vice-captaincy and then again getting him back or including Yuvraj Singh for the T20 World Cup - the selection committee baffled one and all with their decisions.

"Yes, the selection committee has been inconsistent over the last one year. Some of their decisions have defied logic, " Karsan Ghavri, former India allrounder, who was the bowling coach of the now defunct pace wing of the BCCI, says.
Yuvraj's case is surely the most glaring. The selection committee insisted that they were taking "a calculated gamble" with Yuvraj when they selected the left-hander for the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in September. "Everyone in the Indian cricket community wants to see the left-hander back in the Indian squad, but that doesn't mean that he would be back without playing a single competitive match. And that too at a time when he is fighting back from cancer and has missed almost a year of cricket, " Ghavri says.

Yuvi has played only one practice match - the KSCA invitational meet - since his recovery and Chika & Co hope that he will be fit for the World Cup. He was supposed to play the Buchi Babu invitational meet in Chennai to prove his fitness but now that he has been chosen for the Indian team, he is likely to practise at the National Cricket Academy. The selection committee, though, insists that there are two T20 games against New Zealand before the T20 World Cup, which would be the right platform for him to test the fitness. "I am not too sure about the idea, but then if the selection committee wants it that way, there's not much you can do about it, " WV Raman, former India player, says, adding that "the case of Ishant Sharma is even more curious".

Ishant had an ankle surgery and hasn't played a single game since being sidelined after the Australia series at the beginning of the year. The Ranji Trophy season starts from November and the belief was that the lanky paceman would be allowed to play a few domestic games before coming back to Test cricket. "It's not that Ishant is the fittest or the biggest matchwinner India has seen, " says Raman.

Another decision that has left the Indian cricket circuit stumped is the removal of Kohli from the post of the vice-captaincy. "I was surprised at the beginning when Virat was made the vice-captain . . . He is one for the future and I would have preferred to see him for a couple of more seasons before giving the vice-captaincy. But once he has been made the vice-captain, why remove him again?" Ghavri fumes.

Post February, when Virat was made the vicecaptain of the Indian team, Gambhir won the Indian Premier League and that raised his stock. His "team comes before myself" theory, which he kept repeating in the press-conferences, too had takers in the Indian market. But Virat, too, had been India's best batsman in ODIs in this phase and Raman is right to label this decision as "incomprehensible".

"In Indian cricket, there are decisions taken from time to time, which defy logic. . . This is one of those, "the Bengal coach says.

And that's not all. Harbhajan was dropped after the England series last year and even though nobody went on record, the theory floating around was that the selectors were not happy with his attitude when India were down in the dumps. Srikkanth and his committee, though, maintained that it was only form that mattered and Bhajji would only come back if he does well in domestic cricket. The feisty Sardar, though, was injured during the Ranji Trophy, was far from impressive during the IPL, and even while playing for Essex, didn't do anything spectacular. Such was his desperation that he even blamed the Indian media for mentioning that he went wicketless in a game.

No one gave Harbhajan a chance ahead of the T20 World Cup but the selectors dropped another bombshell when they included him the squad, and that too, when R Ashwin has settled in nicely in the team. "I don't know whether there's place for two offspinners in a T20 game. . . My feeling is that this outgoing selection committee didn't want to take any chances and went by the team management's wish. They had their share of brickbats through their tenure and wanted to leave on a happy note, " Ghavri says.

That's not the way selection committees in top Test playing nations work, but then, when it's Indian cricket, you can make exceptions.

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