A platform for youngsters

KIRAN MORE with India's coach Greg Chappell. The Chairman of the National Selection Committee has given a lot of opportunities to youngsters.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

The national selectors will meet next week to pick the three teams for the Challenger Trophy. The meeting perhaps might be the last for the Chairman of the selection committee, Kiran More, and another member V. B. Chandrasekhar.

In Indian cricket, everyone has an opinion and that makes the position of the national selectors vulnerable. Unlike in other countries, Indian national selectors are expected to pick the team without letting the nation know how they went about it.

Sometime back, the former chairman of the national selection committee, Kishen Rungta, suggested that there should be live telecast of the selection committee meetings. If that suggestion is ever implemented, speculations surrounding these meetings may stop.

By and large, the current selection committee has done a very good job in giving opportunities to teenagers. Compared with the teams that played in the earlier editions of the Challenger Trophy, the selections for the last edition had a lot of teenagers and most of them made an impact.

We get to hear about bench strength, but unless one creates opportunities for the youngsters to exhibit their talent in a tournament, the selectors will not have any option to pick the players from the reserves. The Challenger Trophy thus becomes an ideal platform for the youngsters.

The selectors have in the past mixed the youngsters with the seniors. But not having seen their potential or approach to the game, they have been unable to handle the youngsters well. The young bowlers in particular have suffered.

The Under-19 team, which has been doing well in Pakistan, may form one of the teams in the Challenger Trophy. Most of the critics have a point when they say that some of these boys have been on the Under-19 circuit for far longer than they actually should. But then the BCCI doesn't seem to be keen on getting rid of such boys who prefer to remain under 19. The selection of such players deprives boys who are genuinely under 19.

The other team in the tournament could be the emerging boys who are expected to push the players in the senior team. Here again, the selectors have to think of the age. There have been cases of players past 30 playing for India A. In fact, in the last season too, a couple of such players were selected.

The third team could consist of players of the calibre of Yuvraj Singh and Kaif. The selectors need to pick 39 players, and when we go through the performances of those in the age group of 18-24, it is clear that we have some amazing talent. The advantage More has is that he has been a regular at the NCA, coaching youngsters, and the talent gets into his database.

More and the Chairman of the National junior selection committee Pravin Amre have always had a very good rapport. This helped good youngsters get opportunities. The BCCI must also think of the composition of the junior selection committee, which is expected to make the supply line of talent effective. One of the members of the senior selection committee could be the Chairman of the junior selection committee so that there is a better coordination between the two committees.

The policy of the BCCI to give preference to smaller associations to nominate former cricketers for the junior selection committee should change. The selectors have to be sufficiently experienced to spot and nurture the talent. The junior selectors have been backed by the Talent Resource Development Officers (TRDOs), as watching 325 junior matches couldn't have been possible for the five junior selectors.

The TRDOs have contributed immensely in the post-2002 period. The talented youngsters that you see in the senior team have been tapped by the TRDOs. Otherwise how does one explain the emergence of players from smaller places in the Indian team? Had the TRDOs not reported constantly about Dhoni, possibly we may not have got to watch his breathtaking strokeplay.

One hopes that the BCCI continues with the Talent Resource Development Wing. Indian cricket is spreading fast in the districts and to tap the talent in those places, there has to be a process. When the TRDW has succeeded in making this process result oriented, why scrap it? The erring TRDOs could always be replaced, but scrapping the successful process will only be a folly.