Cricket: Selection not Ganguly’s prerogative

Dilip Vengsarkar, the former Indian skipper says, picking captains and teams is the sole prerogative of selectors and that BCCI office-bearers should not venture into that zone

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar
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Qaiser Mohammad Ali

In an exclusive chat with National Herald on Sunday the former captain does not mince words. BCCI president or other office bearers have no jurisdiction over selection of teams or the captain, he points out. Chairman of the selection committee should clear the air.

Dilip Vengsarkar, who chaired the senior selection committee for two years (2006-2008), says picking captains and teams is the sole prerogative of selectors and that BCCI office-bearers should not venture into that zone. The former India captain also wants the chairman of the selection committee to again start addressing press conferences after team selection meetings. He spoke candidly with Qaiser Mohammad Ali. Excerpts:

It has been five-and-a-half years since the Supreme Court delivered its judgment on cricket administrative reforms, but they haven’t been fully implemented.

That’s true. Many administrators and many state associations haven’t implemented the reforms at all. In fact, some of them have also applied [to the Supreme Court] to change the BCCI constitution. The application has been lying with the court for more than one-and-a-half years. I was an office-bearer [vicepresident] of the Mumbai Cricket Association and I immediately resigned when they introduced the reforms [January 2017]. The BCCI officials have now asked for changes, the Supreme Court hasn’t taken it up, and incumbents are still continuing [in their positions].

Although the Indian team is now playing in South Africa, the team’s send-off wasn’t ideal before the important tour as the KohliGanguly war of words erupted over captaincy. Your take on the white-ball captaincy issue.

I don’t know about red-ball, whiteball. I don’t believe in these types of things because we also played with white ball [ODIs]. Why is it different between the white ball and the red ball? It surprises me. It is up to the selection committee, basically. If the selection committee believes ‘X’ is good or ‘X’ is not good, it has to take a call.

Do you feel that the BCCI could have been more transparent, especially when a former India captain, Ganguly, who himself had faced captaincy issues during coach Greg Chappell’s time, should have handled it better as Board president?

Now it is very difficult to say because it’s one man’s word against another man’s word. And it’s not fair for me to comment on what exactly transpired between the two and who said what. I just go by media reports. But Ganguly doesn’t have the jurisdiction in this at all. It’s the selection committee that picks captains and drops captains; and also the team.

Could there be something in the background that no one knows about? Maybe Ganguly was powerless in handling the captaincy issue?

As I said, it is a matter for the selection committee. The chairman of the selection committee should come up front and explain whatever he had in mind. He should speak on behalf of the selection committee.

Cricket: Selection not Ganguly’s prerogative
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The BCCI probably doesn’t allow the chairman of the selection committee to address press conferences now after team selections.

Then it depends on them what they do and whether they allow or don’t allow the chairman to speak.

Could the code of conduct for players be invoked against Kohli for speaking out? It’s hypothetical, but if it is done, do you think it would be unfortunate?

When Kohli addressed the press conference [on the eve of the team’s departure for SA on December 15] and he was asked this question, he spoke his mind. He didn’t hold the press conference on his own.

When something like this happens to a player, in this case Kohli, would he be able to focus completely on the game?

At the moment, Kohli is one of the best players in world cricket. And he has been so for the last several years. He is a fantastic batsman, a great player and I love to watch him bat. I don’t think it affects him.

Administratively, too, several matters of importance, ranging from I-T to litigation, are unresolved.

To be honest, I would like to see more importance being given to first-class cricket and more invested in it. Hundreds of cricketers are playing first-class cricket and they wait for their opportunities. If the BCCI can hold Irani Trophy, Duleep Trophy, and Ranji Trophy (regularly), that would definitely churn out more talent. Income tax issues have been there for years. They can be resolved.

Cricket: Selection not Ganguly’s prerogative

The annual player contracts are being delayed every year. The 2020- 21 contracts were announced in April. Does this delay make any difference to players who look forward to making an assured sum of money in a year?

It does, definitely, 100 per cent. If it is announced in time, it does help them concentrate and perform better.

In the ongoing domestic season, again there are a few centres where matches are being played in biobubble. Do you think they would give their best performance while being in the bubble?

It is tough to be in a bubble for a long period of time. But then you don’t have options, as you have to take care in the pandemic. I say this because suppose if somebody gets infected and he [inadvertently] passes it on to many others, it affects the whole tournament. So, unfortunately, there’s no option and they have to carry on in the bubble.

What are the areas in domestic men’s and women’s tournaments that you want to be improved?

I agree that representing India-A helps players to perform well and fast-track into international cricket. I understand that. But the important factor is that they should have Duleep Trophy on a zonal basis.

There is no sense of belonging to the teams named Blue, Green, and Yellow. And nobody in those teams, for example, knows who the captain is, who the vice-captain is. The players are informed and they just go there and play. When you have zonal teams there are many senior players who may also get opportunities. They may not go on to play for India, but their presence and guidance for younger cricketers could definitely help.

And I feel that Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy matches should be played in Bengaluru or somewhere else in southern India in August or September when it rains in other parts of the country. That way you can get over it and at least those players get an opportunity and a platform to perform, besides the exposure. If you play Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy in April it has no meaning; it is an exercise in futility.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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