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Another selection controversy

Cricket commentary


May 27, 2006: Before we go into the merits or demerits of the Agarkar (non)selection issue, letís acknowledge the fact that team selection has improved by leaps and bounds in recent times. It has reflected in the Indian teamís results also, as all can see. 

Ajit Agarkar file photo

The odd big row over selection is still there and the dropping of Sourav Ganguly almost brought Kolkata to a halt. But such things have become the exception rather than the rule. About 5-10 years ago, every time the selection committee met, there was something in it for hungry journalists. One remembers the time when J.Y. Lele was the board secretary and how he used to give weirder explanations to weird selection choices.

Reports from the West Indies talk about how Ajit Agarkar was the most successful bowler of the ODIs and how he has still been sacked for the Tests. They have talked about his ability to bowl a three quarter length and also be nippy and finally to swing the ball. 

All thatís fine but letís face it, Agarkar is no Kapil Dev, not even Javagal Srinath. He is more in the nature of a bits and pieces cricketer who surprises people by making the odd ball hurry through. He has been in and out of the team with no spectacular performances and for this he has to thank the fact that the country still doesnít have any great fast bowlers, only some capable medium pacers. 

There was a time when it was rumoured that Agarkar was in the team only because Sachin Tendulkar wanted him to be there. Like all rumours, it is unconfirmed knowing Tendulkarís methods, he wouldnít have pushed his friendís case beyond a point. 

But whatís wrong with dropping him is the fact that cricketers shouldnít be shown the door when they are doing well. Never. And, it doesnít matter if it is a Test match or ODI or Half-day match (Isnít it a better idea to have 25 overs a side games rather than 20/20 matches!)

Chetan Sharma was an average bowler with a slightly suspect action but played many matches because of the TINA (There is no alternative) factor. But finally when he played the innings of his life and got a century when promoted against England (Readers are cautioned to cross check and get back to us if my memory is playing tricks with me and then Iíll go for a full fledged brain scan) he was dropped from the team for being a so-so bowler when he should have been retained for his batting exploits. And India lost the chance of grooming an allrounder a la Lance Klusener for ever. 

When bowlers are promoted and groomed as batsmen, they usually play well and rise to the expectations. And they usually tend to compensate for their failures with the bal. Just like Sachin Tendulkar compensates with the ball whenever he doesnít get runs. 

All this provokes another thought. Instead of thinking about bowling coaches who can do little at the top level by way of improving the technique, why canít the BCCI appoint somebody like Kapil Dev or Frank Tyson to do a talent hunt? Each of the state boards can nominate two bowlers each who are bowling 140 mph or above. Coming to think of it, even the West Indies can benefit from such a exercise with names like Edwards, Bradshaw, Collymore and Bravo. Itís another matter, that kind of line-up was enough to get the better of India at T&T in the fourth ODI.

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