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Is it fair to judge Ex-Indian chief selector MSK Prasad?

India's MS Dhoni (L) and Rishabh Pant during the 2019 World Cup in England
©Reuters
 

It is not sensible to judge a selector on his international record and without being privy to the internal pulls, captain's recommendations and demographic diversity that one has to honour to ace the balancing act.

 There were often questions asked about the playing credentials of former chief selector MSK Prasad and the panel led by him. The argument was that those who have not played enough cricket at the highest level will find it hard to stick to their guns and run the risk of the captain and coach imposing their will in the matter of team selection.

 MSK Prasad, in his defence, has cited the examples of Trevor Hohns and Ed Smith, who have played only ten Test matches between them, but have been doing a fine job for Australia and England respectively. 

After Prasad's term ended, former India spinner Sunil Joshi has been named chairman of the national selection panel by the BCCI's Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC). The CAC, comprising Madan Lal, R P Singh and Sulakshana Naik, named two selectors, the second being ex-pacer Harvinder Singh.

Formally, anyone who has represented India in either a Test match or an ODI is eligible for being elected in the senior selection committee. Once that is out of the way, shouldn't skill and results be the only parameter for judging a selection panel?

The 49-year-old Joshi played 15 Tests and 69 ODIs between 1996 and 2001, taking 41 and 69 wickets respectively, while Harvinder, who is 42, represented India in three Tests and 16 ODIs between 1998 and 2001, taking four and 24 scalps respectively.

And, there you again. The argument whether having represented the country for a substantial period makes a difference in the national selector's role or not promises to roll on for another few years.

With the Indian chief selector's hat changing hands, this is a good time to revisit Prasad's tenure.

Prasad, who hails from Andhra Pradesh and has played six Tests and 17 ODIs in his brief international career, was appointed as the new chairman of selectors of Indian cricket team at the 87th Annual General Meeting of the BCCI in September, 2016.

The criticism that comes his way includes players' injury management. Many players have also highlighted the lack of communication from the side of the selection committee openly in the press. India stumbling in the knockouts of the world events. Making a dog's meal of the No 4 spot in ODIs, which many believe led to India's elimination in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.

 

 To this, here is Prasad's defence:

"We had this goal of developing bench strength across all formats and we take pride in having achieved our goal. I don't think we lost the World Cup because of No.4 position. We topped the table leading up to the semi-final. It was one bad session that cost us."

Asked about failing to find the replacements of players like Dhoni and Yuvraj and dropping Jadeja and Ashwin from white-ball cricket, he said: "Dhoni and Yuvraj are legends and I don't really see anyone stepping into those shoes. It is tough to deal with. Our fundamental job is to identify fresh talent, groom them and induct them when the need arises. Dropping Ashwin and Jadeja from white-ball cricket or preparing a successor for MS Dhoni, both were equally challenging."

Before coming to any judgement, one has to understand that the selector's role is one of the most challenging job profiles in cricket. If you pick a player based on your gut feel and he fails to live up to potential, you are painted in a negative light in the media.

If you pick a player on the insistence of the team management - which in a way is only fair as it is the captain's team ultimately - and that player doesn't do well, all the blame is directed at you.

A player you back and he or she blossoms into a match winner and the captain walks away with the applauds.

On top of that, there are several closed door meetings which the general public is not privy to but the selector has to oblige - internal pulls, captain's recommendations, keeping the demographic diversity reasonable.

So, with a more informed vision, Prasad may have not succeeded with his hunches as much as he would have liked, but knowing the nature of the thankless job, here's wishing the 44-year-old well for his next venture in life.

© Cricket World 2020