Accountability is the key

THE SELECTION panel, headed by Kiran More (seen with Sachin Tendulkar at a training camp), has come under fire.-PTI THE SELECTION panel, headed by Kiran More (seen with Sachin Tendulkar at a training camp), has come under fire.

There is always RESISTANCE to change in any system. Would it not be better to have the experiment of a three-member selection committee for one term of two years?

At the time of writing this column, there is a move to amend the constitution of the BCCI to have a three-member national selection committee. It was in 1997 that the BCCI had formed a nine-member panel to explore the possibility of having such a selection committee, but strangely the findings of that committee weren't even discussed at the Working Committee meeting. If the comments expressed by some of the BCCI members are true, there could be an amendment.

To make an amendment, a two-third majority is required which the ruling group is confident of getting. The question here is not of majority but whether we really need a three-member national selection committee. Brijesh Patel, the secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, had suggested that a three-member selection committee could get rid of the zonal bias if cricketers of integrity are chosen. So the real purpose is getting rid of the zonal bias. But how does a three-member selection committee watch 207 matches of various tournaments? When the current five-member selection committee is not able to watch even 50 per cent of important matches, there is no way a three-member committee would be able to watch more matches.

We are talking about a country that has 27 associations taking part in the National Championship at different venues. With each round of Elite and Plate divisions having a minimum of seven matches on the same dates, you need 14 selectors, which is unthinkable. For a similar situation in junior cricket, five national selectors are assisted by 20 Talent Resources Development Officers. It's the combined effort of 25 former cricketers that has made the national team's bench strength solid after 2002.

If the BCCI is looking for a fair system of selection of talented players, then one needs to put the state and zonal selection committees in place. The selection of the Delhi Ranji team is a case in point. The former Delhi players in the selection committee were expected to pick the best 15 and they made a mess of it. The joke doing the rounds was that even if the Delhi District Cricket Association President Arun Jaitley had closed the door and sat alone to pick the team, he would have done a much better job.

No matter what you do, you can't get rid of nepotism while selecting a team. It's the quality that is to be picked from a huge quantity. In my last column, I wrote about the small town boys playing for the country. Munaf Patel is now added to the list. Again it's the combined effort of 25 former cricketers who were responsible for spotting him.

For the past 50 years, we have been having a five-member selection committee. What seems to be the point of objection now is the methodology of the selection committee headed by Kiran More. Mind you, I have no intention of doubting their integrity. But they do seem to have different yardsticks for different players, and though the `unstated' reasoning is quite understandable and even perhaps justifiable, that `unstatedness' is also the reason why the BCCI is under tremendous pressure to get three reputed former players in the national selection committee.

There is a school of thought that feels none of the selectors in a three-member committee should have anything to do with the association they represent. In the present selection committee, More and Jagdale are the secretaries and Biswal the president of their respective associations. There have been instances of favouring players from associations to which the secretary belonged. Weren't Sunil Gavaskar and Ashok Mankad dropped from the West Zone in 1974 to make way for some mediocre players?

What seems to be the solution to make a three-member selection committee effective is to allow them to select each state selection committee on a professional basis. No longer should it be `for the love of the game' and `giving back to the game'. The BCCI is generating huge revenue, a part of which should be disbursed to have the selection method foolproof. The `honorary' system leaves too much room for temptation. If, instead, everyone involved in the game (players, selectors et al) are reimbursed unstintingly, it may act as a legitimate curb on that temptation.

By asking the three-member national selection committee to select all the state selectors, they would be ensuring their control on not only state selections but also zonal selections of 75 players. All the state selectors having been paid will be accountable and would be questioned for their role by the national selection committee.

There is always resistance to change in any system. Would it not be better to have the experiment of a three-member selection committee for one term of two years? Unless a system starts, one can't see the grey areas. A three-member selection committee with state selectors chosen by them may be the answer to the deficiencies of our present selection pattern.

Imagine the current situation of the pressure on the honorary state selectors when not less than a lakh of rupees will be given to a first class player per game. The scope for monetary malfeasance in elevating players to that first class level is huge. The present system would most likely succumb to pressure. It's time the BCCI weighs the pros and cons of the current and proposed selectorial systems and acts quickly.