Outgoing selector MSK Prasad: Didn't lose 2019 World Cup due to No.4
MSK Prasad talks to mid-day about his just-concluded term as chairman of selectors and puts controversial call of picking an inexperienced Vijay Shankar as middle-order batsman for the 2019 World Cup in perspective
After the last few Indian team selection committee meetings, MSK Prasad would get asked whether that was his last selection meeting since the BCCI opened invitations for two spots in the national selection committee. No more questions now as finally, the replacements for Prasad and Gagan Khoda were announced earlier this week. The duo finished their four-year terms.
Prasad became a national selector in 2015, replacing Roger Binny after the BCCI was first hit by conflict of interest. After the four-year term of Sandeep Patil's selection committee came to an end the following year, Prasad, who played six Tests and 17 ODIs, was surprisingly elevated as chairman of selectors. It raised many eyebrows and critics did not fail to bring up the fact that he had figured in only six Tests. It's something that has always haunted him till the time former left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi was appointed the new chairman of selectors for one year on Wednesday.
When Prasad was appointed chief selector, this reporter asked him whether he would have to take the tough call on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's future. While his international return is still a mystery among the fans and the media, it is not for Prasad. However, the Dhoni issue is confidential.
Prasad also witnessed two facets of the BCCI—one run by the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators and the other governed by elected administrators.
Before dwelling on his tenure as chief selector, Prasad thanked past BCCI presidents Shashank Manohar, Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke for showing "confidence" and "unconditional support." He also acknowledged former secretary of the Andhra Cricket Association, G Gangaraju for recommending him to the BCCI.
"It wouldn't be appropriate if I don't thank the captains—MS Dhoni, Virat [Kohli], Rohit [Sharma] and Ajinkya [Rahane] along with coaches Ravi [Shastri], Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and their respective team managements. My strength had been my colleagues whose hard work and commitment helped in building this wonderful Indian team across all formats," Prasad told mid-day on Friday.
Which part of your tenure was the highlight in terms of selection strategy or policy, for you?
I personally feel that my colleagues and me can take pride in the fact that we have successfully seen the transition period from MSD to Virat very well. Once Mahi completed his [captaincy] stint, we had to look at somebody who could step into those shoes. We wanted to see that happening smoothly. Once Virat took over, we reached the No. 1 ranking across all three formats. That's the biggest satisfaction I got.
Creating multiple back-ups for various positions and the evolution of the pace battery is something you must be really proud of...
Of course, we take pride in this fact too. Our committee traveled the length and breadth of the country without missing a single domestic match to identify this young bunch of players as back-ups across various formats. I think the back-ups will serve Indian cricket for the next few years with a high degree of success.
Any selections that you are really proud of?
There are plenty of great selections that we can talk of like Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya coming into the Test team. From nowhere, we brought in Rishabh Pant. He was nowhere in contention. We groomed him through India 'A' tours. Nobody expected he'll do so well. In his first Test series [v England], he claimed 15 catches. Pant is the only wicketkeeper-batsman to get a Test century in England and Australia. I know he is going through a bit of a rough phase, but that will pass and he will do well in time.
Do you think the ambiguity surrounding Dhoni's future could have been handled in a better way?
I don't really see any ambiguity. MS is clear about his future which he expressed to me and the team management. I cannot disclose details as it is confidential. It's best that whatever discussed and shared between us [selection committee and the team management] remains there. It's an unwritten code.
In hindsight, do you think not considering Shreyas Iyer for the No. 4 position in the 2019 World Cup was a mistake?
In hindsight, there are plenty of good things that happened during our tenure which need to be appreciated and cherished. I don't really see that the position of No. 4 as the reason for not winning the World Cup. If you have topped the table prior to the semi-final, that speaks volumes of the team. So, one cannot say that because of the No. 4 position [we lost the World Cup]. See, prior to that match [semi-final], there were guys who played in the No. 4 position. It's all unnecessary hype given to that No. 4 position because of the rotation policy that happened prior to the World Cup.
So the selectors had absolute clarity for the No. 4 position?
It is not just about clarity... I do understand that we were grooming Ambati Rayudu to a large extent, but somewhere at that juncture we felt Vijay Shankar would be ideal because of his bowling skills. He moves the ball and maybe in overcast conditions, he'd be handy. Now, in hindsight, we can talk about it being the right or wrong move.
My regret is that we were so close to winning the Test series in South Africa and England. We could have definitely won those two series. We didn't clinch those crucial moments in Cape Town, Edgbaston and Southampton. Had we won those Test series, it would have given me much more satisfaction. The same with the 2019 World Cup where we dominated till the semi-final but that one day, one session [v New Zealand in the semis] cost us dear.
What about the constant criticism about being the weakest chairman of selectors in terms of number of Test matches?
Criticism that is aimed for a constructive purpose should always be respected, but if it is with ulterior motives, it cannot be worthy of thinking about.
How do you see the new BCCI under Sourav Ganguly?
Sourav has a tremendous record as player and captain. He also has gone through the grind as administrator of CAB [Cricket Association of Bengal]. Jay Shah [BCCI secretary] is young but he has successfully taken Gujarat Cricket Association to great heights. With sufficient experience behind both of them, I have no doubts they will take Indian cricket forward.
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