It was probably a year back or two when I was watching a weekly cricket program on NDTV, and as usual Navjot Sidhu was shouting and drowning out anyone else who wanted to say anything. The argument point was the selectors of Indian cricket and there were mighty discussions on their integrity, their decision making capabilities, and their susceptibilities to pressure from BCCI head-bosses, and qualification (or lack of it) for the posts.
I don't remember a lot from that program but I remember Sidhu screaming every five minutes – "My dear friends, pay the selectors. Treat them like Supreme Court judges. Pay them 20 lac rupees an year as a salary, and then my friends, you will get good selectors, not these chunnu-munnus who turn up nowadays. Then you can demand accountability from them, when you pay them 20 lac rupees and treat them as you would Supreme Court judges".
I didn't get the point about the Supreme Court judges but I will try not to go in that direction lest a Sidhuism comes in about how Supreme Court judges are like miniskirts or something similar. However, the second part of his argument is today being laid bare for inspection.
For some reason known only to him, Sidhu's reasoning was that paying the selectors would make them immune to any pressure tactics from the BCCI and make them accountable and responsible. Also that making the selectors job a paid one would make all the highly qualified selectors of this country jump towards the hot seat.
Well, today the selector's job has been made a paid one and the money on offer is 5 lac more than what Sidhu suggested. I don't know how we can treat these men like Supreme Court judges but at least the monetary aspect is taken care of. The men making that money are also clear now; Krish Srikkanth, Yashpal Sharma, Narendra Hirwani, Surendra Bhave and Raja Venkat.
Raja what, did I hear someone say? Surendra who? Like the famous Tendulkar quip on being told that Noel David was flying in as a replacement to the West Indies when he was the Captain of the team, seriously I want to say "Raja Who"?
Ok, so if someone sits and sifts through the record books, one will find a mention of the five somewhere but barring Srikkanth, hardly anyone has credibility as a top notch cricketer and that is what most experts advocate as a necessary qualification for the selector's post, isn't it? I don't agree but then I am talking about the general perception where a great cricketer would immediately make a great coach, a great selector, a great everything.
Hirwani made headlines for a couple of tests and admittedly, those were worthy of being called Hirwani's tests. However, his list of accomplishment doesn't go much beyond that. I haven't heard of any Yashpal Sharma tests and as for Raja Venkat and Surendra Bhave, having their names as part of a test match would in itself have been a great accomplishment, had that happened.
The point here not being in discussing the selection panel but just the point that making the selector's job a paid one would bring in some incredible changes. It is the BCCI who is paying the salaries and what it can give, it can take away. Twenty Five lacs is a great post-retirement salary but I haven't seen any Gavaskars, Shastris or even any Sidhus turning up to take on the challenge.
Firstly the BCCI is not going to let control of selection go out of its hands by making a panel it cannot control. Secondly, the experts, the ex-cricketers whose hearts rhythmically to the beat of "India India" every minute of the day, wouldn't be caught dead in a situation where their pompous egos would be punctured by the performance of the teams they select. They wouldn't want to take on the job of having to ask a Ganguly, Dravid or Kumble to stay out; better to let someone else do it and write a critique of it in the next day's newspaper. Of course, if there were a committee formed to evaluate the performance of the coach or something similar which wouldn't require any accountability or responsibility, I am sure there would be a number of STAR-ESPN commentators lining up for the free loading.
Bhave, Raja, Yashpal and Hirwani have nothing to lose in this deal; they make a packet and they have no reputations to defend. Krish Srikkanth is the one who has the most at stake in this selection panel and it remains to be seen what kind of thinking the dashing ex-opener has. People still remember the flashing square cut in the finals of the 1983 world cut and Srikkanth will definitely be under pressure to deliver.
While playing cricket, Srikkanth had a simple philosophy which worked for him. If the ball was there to be hit, then he hit it without too much worries on what exactly the situation around him was. The formula brought him success as a cricketer and that is the same formula he must adopt now as a selector. He has to see what path seems the best to him and flash hard. Looking at circumstances and repercussions would only lead to a false stroke. A dasher at the wicket, he has to be a dasher at the selection table also. Good Luck, Mr. Krishnamachari Srikkanth.