Today is a critical day in Indian cricket as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) picks the national selectors.
Natural progression means Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath takes over as chairman of the panel from Krishnamachari Srikkanth, but stranger things have transpired at BCCI Annual General Meetings.
There is a tinge of grey hanging over Amarnath’s promotion — the chances of being beaten by a stronger recommendation from the North Zone and the fact that he lives in Goa, not exactly a cricketing hub. The wisdom of having someone as accomplished as Amarnath should override those two factors. He won’t be as media savvy and expressive and as his predecessor Srikkanth, who has been seen on national television telling a reporter, “boss, you just shut up now.”
Mohinder will make a fine chairman. He won’t be shy to wield the axe and he could also empathise with a dropped player having been through hell in his playing days. Amarnath played 69 Tests, but pundits calculated he missed 64 games in his international career spanning two decades. I believe, during the last season as an ordinary member of the panel, he insisted dropped players return to play domestic cricket to regain form. As chairman, this practice is expected to be emphasised further.
Amarnath landed up in a tricky situation when certain comments on his Facebook account reportedly didn’t please some members of the establishment, but he came out of it with dignity because he didn’t react. If there are issues to be sorted out with Amarnath, the BCCI must do it, but India must not miss out on giving him an opportunity to be chief selector. A news agency report said Amarnath may pay the price for being keen on replacing MS Dhoni as skipper after he lost eight overseas Tests. That would be most unfair, because a selector has a right to his opinion. By the way, Dhoni wouldn’t have been retained as captain in another era.
While there are several names in contention for the East Zone representative on the national panel, there is talk that former India all-rounder Roger Binny is being recommended by the Karnataka State Cricket Association for the South post. Like Mohinder, he will make a good selector after having endured some rough decisions made by selectors during his playing days. This is not to suggest he’ll be overly sympathetic. It means he’ll try to be as fair as possible.
It won’t be right if Binny comes in straightaway as chief selector because he has no experience in the job. Plus, Amarnath is far senior. Binny’s son Stuart recently figured in the Rest of India squad, which beat Ranji Trophy champions Rajasthan to clinch the Irani Cup. Will that be a problem in terms of conflict of interest? On the surface yes, but Indian cricket sails in a sea of conflict of interests. And Binny will not be the first selector to have a son as an active cricketer. It boils down to one’s conscience and of course, how others in the panel react when it comes to taking a call on his son.
Binny’s dilemma reminds me of a former Mumbai batting stalwart who was part of the selection panel when his promising son’s name was being discussed in the early 1990s. He first told his committee that it would be premature to include his son in the Ranji Trophy probables list after just one good year. When his fellow selectors disagreed with him, he left the room and asked them to carry on their discussion. On his return, he discovered his son was picked. Anyway, his son found it tough to get into the Mumbai Ranji side and shifted to state.
If Binny can manage to see through media talk and get on with his job with a clear conscience, he’ll be fine.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY's Group Sports Editor