Jobs for the boys?

The Kerala Cricket Association must have partied hard last night, after their gamble paid off with the inclusion of Sreesanth in the test squad to play Sri Lanka.

Whether he deserves a place in the squad on form is a question I’ll leave well alone — I haven’t seen his most recent outings; the selectors, on the other hand, presumably have. I’m not sure, though, that inclusion in the national team is the right signal to send a player who, given a final warning by the board less than a month ago for serial bad behavior, flipped everyone the finger by blowing away the practice session of the state team of which he is captain. Hopefully, the least the BCCI and the team management will now do is tell the young man that another transgression is his last — encouraging bad behavior merely tempts the offender to push the envelope even further.

On another note, the K Srikkanth-led selection committee is proving no better nor worse than its predecessors. Team selection is normally an exercise in picking the obvious players, and then bargaining for the remaining slots. It is much harder to do in a domestic series, because there are only 14 slots to fill, of which at least 12 *have* to command their place on merit, leaving slots for one reserve bowler and one reserve batsman for the selectors to play games with.

It took Srikkanth and his cohorts to find the perfect solution — increase the team strength to 16, simple; and in doing that, ignore the fact that historically 14 players are picked for home series because in the event of injury, it is easy enough to call up replacements.

So the committee first picked the obvious names. With two additional ‘berths’ created in a fashion that reflects the operations of our railway touts, ‘Cheeka’ managed to fill those spaces with two statemates in M Vijay and Badrinath. The curious aspect is that the announcement specified that Vijay would be the reserve batsman — which makes Badrinath the afterthought.

And that is curious in itself because when the BCCI announced its latest round of central contracts, Badri was one of the biggest gainers, moving two slots up from Category D to B, and seeing his annual guaranteed earnings go up from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 40 lakh.

Leave the question of whether Badri deserves a place in the playing eleven aside for the moment — he is probably playing to his best form just now. The fact remains that neither he, nor his fellow TN player, will ever make it to the starting eleven absent a spate of Australia-like injuries.

If you assume that selection committees have a say in who gets contracts and promotions, the piquant situation here is that a player found worthy of being promoted is an afterthought even in the minds of the same selection committee. And that player — players — will tag along with the team, sitting on the bench sharing gossip, when they would be considerably better off emphasizing their claims in the Ranji Trophy season now on.

The problem with that is, if Cheeka and company don’t pick Badri, they cannot make the case for his continuing to get a central contract. And if Vijay is not picked as the first choice batting replacement, they can’t make a case for him to be included when the next round of contracts is given out [more on that next round in a bit].

Actually, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2007, when the question of refining the contract system was being discussed, there was some talk that the board would incorporate performance clauses, and that promotions and relegations would be based on what the contracted players actually did in national colors — how often they were picked, how they performed, etc.

Came the day for the announcement of contracts, though, and there was no change in the fine print. BCCI chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty, when asked about the omission, told the media simply that “there has been no change”. The media did ask why; Shetty said that was the decision arrived at by the executive committee — as if that automatically precludes further questioning.

Oh and incidentally? The contracts were issued in October 2008. They ended September 30, 2009. The board has thus far not had the time to renew/review the contracts. Hence the imperative for the selectors to pick additional players and push into the ranks those they would like to see retain existing contracts or get fresh ones.

Nothing, clearly, changes in the Wonderland that is Indian cricket.

PS: Busy day. Mercifully, there is a cyclone warning in effect in Bombay and from yesterday on, the weather has been wet and blustery. The umpires will likely go through the routine “pitch inspections” and delay a decision until they are sure it is not even possible to fit in a 20 overs a side game today — but the ground reality is, no play will happen, so India won’t have to “play for pride” today.

Busy day personally, so off this for the rest of the day.



25 thoughts on “Jobs for the boys?

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  2. It seems ugly to cry foul only when Tamil Nadu players are picked – what about players from the rest of the country?

  3. C’mon guys. Badri and Vijay are in based on performance alone. Personally, I love Rohit Sharma. But I think he has made a meal of all the chances given to him. He got away with slam-bam in IPL. But I think he has not proved himself yet in the longer versions of the game. I can only remember one innings in Australia, in which he played with Sachin, where he actually anchored the innings. This is test cricket! We need people who can anchor and play long innings. Don’t we have enough slam-bam in the team already? Viru, Gambhir, Yuvi and Dhoni?

    Also, what is the deal about them being included in the team to keep their national contracts running? Players don’t get paid the amount just like that. You need to play a specified number of games to get the money the contract promises. Also don’t you think these guys are earning enough at CSK?

    From what I saw of Vijay against Aus, I think he was good. I really liked how he played late and how well he handled Brett Lee.

    Can you think of other players you could replace these 2 (Badri and Vijay) with? Guys who have performed? The only other opener that comes to mind is Akash Chopra and I don’t think he has scored off late. You could probably think of Chetheshwar Pujara in the middle order. But against Murali and Mendis? You need the likes of Badri in the middle order. Someone who is experienced.

  4. I still maintain that Sreesanth = India’s Shoiab Akhtar. We all know how the latter turned out. Now that Sreesanth has been included in the team, whether or not Sreesanth will follow in the latter’s footsteps, we will shortly find out.

    As for the general selectors’ horse trading, back stabbing, confusion, convulsion, favoritism etc etc etc…what’s new? 🙂

  5. Sreesanth is a fighter and you can expect the best from him. Last one and half year was a terrible year for him off the field and on the field. He is like a Volcano which is going to erupt. I think Chief Selector Sreekanth has taken a good decision by including him in the squad. If not now then when. There is no doubt about his potential. He is an aggressive and arrogant cricketer but at times he exceeds his limit. If he can control his emotions then I think he can prove to be a quality bowler who can really play mind games with batsman.This is the right time for Sreesanth to show his class.

  6. If we are going to regionalize the issue of selection, then I need to point out one curious case,

    During the just concluded ODI series against Australia, there was NOT A SINGLE PLAYER FROM THE WHOLE OF SOUTH ZONE. True, Dinesh Kartik was called up as a back up, but this must be a rare time when not even a single player from the South Zone was not in the Team.

    Can anyone remember a previous occasion?

  7. I think Munaf should have been picked instead of Sreesanth. He has been better in Irani and challenger matches compared to Sree. His fielding may not be good but it is better than earlier. He at least makes the effort and even dives unlike many other bowlers.

    I am amazed that people are supporting Sree attending marriage instead of team training. I don’t think he cares enough or works enough. I think he is happy playing IPL – less stress and still enough money.

  8. Srikkanth’s behavior may be shady, but that shouldn’t take anything away from Badrinath’s talent. He is by far the best player of spin in India. And let’s not forget that Murali and Mendis will be a biggest threats and Yuvraj will be useless against them. Dravid, Laxman and Tendu also struggled last time.

    In the last series against them in SL, most of our batsmen (except Gambhir) struggled against them. In the ODIs that followed, India still won thanks to the confidence shown by Badri in the first game. Then Dhoni and Gambhir followed. Dhoni shouldn’t forget that. But we know that Dhoni is also going by seniority in selecting the final 11 and not by talent, form, fitness, suitability to conditions, opposition etc. Thus, as Prem complained, he will only be warming the benches, which will be such a waste.


  9. I think “I’m not sure, though, that inclusion in the national team is the right signal to send a player…” should be replaced by “I’m sure, though, that inclusion in the national team is NOT the right signal…”

    It is not just to this player, but to other aspirants! now, we have a scenario, where “chaltaa hai…” will be acceptable!

  10. By the way, it is a 15 member and not a 16 member squad, so the selectors have gone for only one additional player for this home series. Yuvraj’s place in the team is not a sure bet, so there is some justification for two batting reserves to cover for any last minute injury and also provide the team management with a choice for the middle-order slot.

  11. Appalled, not by Cheeka’s choice but by your observation!

    I, for one, strongly believe that Murali Vijay should be selected in the team purely based on his performance. Look at this contribution in the challenger trophy as well as the recently concluded Ranji trophy. The numbers speak for themselves.

    Badrinath, lets face it, is not getting any younger but I believe that with the retirement of Sourav there is a permanent open slot at no 6 in the Indian tests team, because of the fact that Yuvi hasn’t performed consistently.

    So it is always put that additional pressure on the players to perform so selection of Badrinath is indeed justified. Rohit Sharma, to me would have been a choice, but for some reason, just like Virat Kohli, he hasn’t impressed me in his international outings. So the obvious choice is Badrinath.

    Sreesanth: Lets discuss about him in the passing.

    If BCCI is that concerned about on field / off field antics then I am afraid, Sourav Ganguly should have never been selected in the first instance. He should have never played after the 2000 Lords ‘Bare the chest’ antics; never player cricket after the 2001 ‘Toss ‘o’ gate’ with Stephen Waugh!. I remember there were reports about Sunny complaining about Veeru’s hold the coach by his collar antics in Sri Lanka. Were they justified? Going by the same yard stick, shouldn’t Sreesanth get the opportunity to play once again?

    Talking purely from talent / performance basis, his selection is absolutely justified. Nehra isn’t going to last full 5 days. Munaf isn’t the fittest around either. Irfan Pathan is more like a slow bowler who bowls occasional 130ks. Praveen Kumar doesn’t know what to do with the old ball. RP Singh just lost his somewhere after IPL 1. Now doesn’t a fit enough Sreesanth qualify automatically?

    With regards to Cheeka’s selection, to influence the contracts! well, Prem, the less said about your judgement the better. Lets not try and reagonalise the Selection of the team. Frankly it is never easy to select the team and satisfy every cricket expert of the country. When was the last time we were satisfied with the selection: NEVER. So don’t think that every one is going to be happy with the selection it isn’t going to happen. As for selecting 16 players instead of 14: given the amount of cricket being played. it is always better to select 16 players rather than 14. You should also realise that the tests are indeed coming at a time when the Ranji games are going on. So instead of acting in the event of any injury, it is better to select well in advance so that the ad-hoc replacements don’t actually disturb the ranji team’s preparation. I can’t find any harm in selecting 16 instead of 14. Please clarify if I am wrong.


    • Absolutely agree with you Prabhu. Yuvraj is still recovering from injury and he should be treated as the reserve batsmen, not Badrinath, who is in red hot form in first class cricket. If somebody needs to be sent back to play Ranji, it should be Yuvraj then.

      Last time M Vijay had to come out in the middle of a Ranji match, which I felt was not very ideal. Better to keep him in the squad and release him after the final 11 is named after the toss. Just look at what happened to Prior. Sehwag is not a super-fit athlete anyway.

    • I agree with PG that Sreesanth’ selection is justified. If the other pacemen were in form, selectors would not have even considered Sreesanth as an option. But, none of them are in form; and quite frankly they look very ordinary. Even worse, they cannot contain runs either.

      If on field antics are to be considered, Harbhajan should never be playing for India.

      Sreesanth is a special talent with a big heart. He has the ability to clock 140+ k consistently and is a wicket taking bowler.

      I really hope that he performs well and silence his critics by taking wickets.

  12. Increasing the squad size to accommodate an additional batsmen for a home series may seem to defy logic but I don’t think anyone can question the merit of the selected batting reserves. Both have performed well in the domestic season not just this year but for a few years now and in my opinion Badri should have got a chance in Tests during the England – India series instead of Yuvraj. Of course, Yuvraj did help India win the Chennai test but he had failed to cement his place with a below-average performance in the subsequent series in NZ leaving the door open for Badri/Murali.

    As for Rohit Sharma, who some believe should have found a place in the squad, there is no case for his selection. The only way for him to get into the squad is to perform and perform better than other wannabes in the domestic circuit. He should remember that everyone cannot hope to be as lucky as Sreesanth is. Sreesanth got selected after just one good performance in the Irani Trophy but I suspect his pace and his good outing in the English county cricket matches may have prompted the selectors to give him another chance.

  13. what really is missing is a genuine all-rounder to balance the team ..someone of shane watson or angelo mould ..

    Going with 4 bowlers reduces the chances of pushing for a victory and also adds the extra pressure on batsman to score more to negate the fifth bowler factor.

    With Kumble and Harbhajan in the team it was more comfort to go with the 2+2 combination they would do the bulk of bowling and many times accounted for the wickets also.

    with Harbhajan nowhere near his best and Ohja or Mishra to support him ..going with 2+2 doesn’t augur much confidence in the team..

    What really worries is that there is no genuine all-rounder in the domestic circuit also ….except for the struggling Irfan Pathan….

    Do selectors make a note of these things and inform the concerned persons in BCCI or do they simply say …I select from what I get or what I see ..its not my business to make these observations and highlight them or may be they try to put these things on the deaf ears of BCCI which is busy selling the TV rights, team sponsors ….

    good fielding unit and a genuine all-rounder never really mix with Indian colors

  14. Cyclone is a good thing for cricket. A 4-2 Series loss is better than a 5-2 series loss 😀

    I like Sreesanth’s bowling but his antics are a little too much. He needs to focus on cricket now. He can consider theatre and cinema after 35.

  15. Prem,

    Your thoughts on conflict on interest. Srikanth is brand Ambasdor for the Chennei Super Kings owned by N Srinivasan (also chairman of BCCI). Coincidently we have two new players picked from Chennai.

    Personally I would have picked Rohit Sharma over Badrinath for the middle order and do we really need an additional opener with Sehwag, Gambhir, Laxman and Dravid who can all open in sub-continent pitches.

    • Why Rohit Sharma over Badri? Badri is in form in the Ranji’s and scored a century last week. What has Rohit done off late?

    • Why pick Rohit Sharma? He was in the ODI team and did nothing. I would even prefer Raina in the test team over Sharma.

  16. They should do a medical test on Sreesanth to confirm if he is schizophrenic. His on and off field behaviors are like chalk and cheese. And is he is suffering from that condition he should get some medical help. And the less we speak of our selectors the better.

  17. It is natural for a player to attend another players wedding, someone with whom he has played together. If that player happens to have the Chairman of Selectors son, does it mean that Sreesanth should not have attended the wedding. By the same token, any active player who attended the wedding should be in the Indian team.

    Sreesanth is a good talent, though I deplore his antics. Given the state of India’s pace bowling ‘riches’ at this stage, his recall is more of a desperation than anything else. RP Singh has been woefully inadequate, Irfan is bowling at 120 kmphr, Ashish Nehra was never keen about Test Match Cricket (in fact he used to deliberately break down before test matches but miraculously recover in time for ODI’s in his last stint with the team) and how does MSD hide Munaf in the field for 5 whole days? So they have taken a gamble based on talent, for which we should not be attributing motives.

    The other thing held against him is his form of late after his injury. If form in the domestic cricket is the criteria, then half the Indian mega stars like Yuvi, Sehwag, Gambhir, Irfan, et all had walked into the Indian team without even having played a single domestic game once they ‘claimed’ they are fit

  18. Ajay Jadeja on NDTV has been telling the world for sometime now that Sreesanth attended a selector’s son’s wedding. Could that have played a part in Sree getting picked?

    • I remember watching some bunch of jokers-Nikhil Chopra,Maninder Singh and would add Jadeja to that list if he has made those comments! If sreesanth bowls with fire and does well his selection would be justified.As for Badri and Vijay-Prem ascribing motives is not done as they could be done to numerous other selections !
      IF Cheeka is so powerful-i am sure the other selectors are not impotent

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