SOME years ago, Mohinder Amarnath, the Indian Test player who made more comebacks than any international cricketer, labelled the Indian selectors a bunch of jokers. Most Indian fans have long known this. But there are times when it becomes plain to the whole world that the men running cricket in India need to have their heads examined.
Consider this scenario: The national selection panel picks a team and sends it abroad. The moment it lands in a country where it is supposed to play Tests and one-day matches, the secretary of the Indian board lashes out at team selection and predicts that the team will suffer a whitewash. Probably this is the only thing that Jaywant Lele has got right in his whole life. The aftermath? Lele is not questioned. He continues to be the secretary and he also continues to play his little games.
Now let's take a step across the border. A Pakistani cricket official makes an allegation about Australian umpires. The manager of the Pakistan team which is in Australia denies that such a statement is in any way correct. But there is a difference here: a few weeks later, the said official is sacked. He pays for making rash statements. And I know full well that Indians will never admit their system is in any way worse than that in neighbouring Pakistan.
Let's get back to the games that people play in India. Ajay Jadeja was sent to Australia with the one-day team. The alleged reason was that he was unfit. This is difficult to understand because at the time when the Indian team was being creamed by Australia, Jadeja was playing domestic cricket. And doing pretty well on the field too. So why wasn't Jadeja, one of the better one-day players in India, not donning the blue strip Down Under?
That takes some explaining. Jadeja had an injury, it appears. He was sent to South Africa, to the same surgeon who operated on Javagal Srinath. Surgery was recommended. Jadeja did not want to go through with it. The board told him that he had better prove his fitness if he wanted to be considered for selection. And then they threw out the certificate he brought, saying it was not good enough. This isn't fiction, even though it reads like a twisted tale.
The one wicket-keeper in the country who can bat well was left out. A new kid was sent to keep wicket in the Tests. Whose backing did he have? Nayan Mongia has even opened the batting for India; wasn't he the one who made that big hundred in the one-off Test against Australia some years ago? For the one-dayers, the selectors unearth another genius from Bombay who has definitely been hiding his light under a bushel. The man cannot bat.
India has been advised time and time again to prepare bone-hard pitches and play on them at home if it wants to be competitive in Australia and South Africa. The other option is to tour these countries more often. The latter option is out of the question because India is playing one-day cricket against Pakistan nearly half the year -- in Sharjah, Singapore, Canada, Bangladesh and any other country you care to name. The other six months, it is busy playing Tests and one-dayers at home on pitches where the ball rarely comes through at knee-level.
The captaincy has been forced on a man who was reluctant to even be vice-captain for the World Cup. The former captain was omitted even though he could have added some much-needed experience to the lower batting order. That is, if you can call it a batting order at all, for only three men can bat. There were others who stood in the crease and swatted flies with their bats. They made glorious strokes. The only problem was the ball was nowhere near the bat. When they touched the ball, they had to start walking.
There was a time when the policy of making low and slow pitches brought victory at least at home. Now other teams are beginning to wise up to that. New Zealand was the first to hand India defeat at home in a long time. South Africa will probably be the next. There is a long list of teams waiting to avenge those defeats in India on dusty pitches. Don't worry, their time will come.
Indian cricket has sunk low. It can sink even lower in the next six months; with the type of administrators the country has, there is plenty of scope for this. Of course, the board and the selectors are too busy pushing their candidates in and making money to even care about what happens to the national team. Maybe somebody among the players should utter the same words which Amarnath did to bring people to their senses.