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Home > Cricket > Interview

The Rediff Cricket Interview / V B Chandrasekhar

'The selectors should have the guts to state the facts'

November 15, 2007

V B Chandrasekhar, the hard-hitting former Tamil Nadu, Goa [Images] and India opener who played seven One-Day Internationals with moderate success, is now a versatile television commentator in English. Representing South Zone, he served on the national selection committee from 2004 to 2006. Always outspoken, he never mines words and calls a spade a spade.

In a freewheeling conversation with Haresh Pandya, during the NKP Salve Trophy Challenger Series in Ahmedabad, he threw light on the way the Indian selection committee functions.

You have been a player, selector and commentator. Which role did you enjoy the most?

I have enjoyed all the three roles. Right now I am enjoying my new innings as a commentator as well. I have been learning the tricks of the trade.

How do you look back and assess your role as national selector?

I served as a national selector for a very short time. I did the duty for Tamil Nadu for six years, but on the national scene it was just for two years. But I am sure people will remember my tenure as a national selector for a lot of things that happened during that particular period.

How was your personal experience as a national selector?

Though I did enjoy the job in the best possible way, I thought it was too short a time. Just when I thought I had a grip on the things required, and had been looking at building a better vision, like what was good for Indian cricket, my innings came to an end. But you have to move on. Now I am a commentator and enjoying every bit of my new role.

You are emphasising that your tenure on the national selection panel was too short. Do you mean to say the selectors should be given a longer duration to function properly?

I am sure it is like a player maturing. If you look at batsmen, they probably play really well by the time they turn 27, 28 or around 30. You kind of attain that maturity. I am sure even as a selector you are not going to do the job to the letter in a short time. You try and put a structure and build a team. That is what you try to do. And you go around travelling, picking up the right kind of talents.

So I thought two years was a very short time by any stretch of imagination. You cannot really give back anything in such as short time. You tend to get better only with time and experience. Everybody makes mistakes and the selectors cannot be different from the rest. The selection committee is always going to be put under the microscope for those mistakes.

Are you suggesting that even selectors need time to learn and correct those mistakes? 

Well, the past always gives you a chance to learn from. And being in the present you always look to put one block at a time, which will be the kind of a vision for the future.

Do you regret some mistakes you may have made as a selector?

All I can say is that those few mistakes did not cost much. As somebody who speaks his mind, I got into the selection committee with a perspective that I was there to do a very honest job. It is likely I may have spoken my mind sometimes. There may have been instances when I may have made a mistake or two at the outset of my innings as a national selector.

Could you elaborate please?

Well, there was a fight between Dinesh Karthik and Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] for a place in the Indian team at that point of time. I felt Karthik had better credentials to get in first. I was for Karthik, not because he was from my home state, Tamil Nadu. He had done well in the Tests. There was a time when pressure had been mounting from the other selectors that Dhoni should be given a go. But I was pretty much against that for a while because Karthik was doing well. And when Karthik had a few failures, and Dhoni was inducted into one-dayers, and the kind of dream start he had to his international career, it was an occasion when I had an opportunity to probably correct what was wrong. And I thought Dhoni had better credentials at that point of time.

Although Karthik had also done pretty well, we had to give Dhoni a go. So you make a few mistakes. But they are never costly because some of these cricketers you deal with are tremendous performers simply because they are good. That is why they are there at the international level. So docking them out for a few matches is never going to hurt; but in your perspective you might think it was a mistake. In the long run, however, I think it all gets ironed out.

Do you remember any other instances, like the case of Karthik versus Dhoni you just talked about?

Well, there have always been such instances in any selection committee. But I am all for speaking the truth. The selectors should have the guts to state the facts. But it is not happening. What happened today? The selectors have just announced the 15-member team for the first two ODIs against Pakistan. They have dropped Rahul Dravid [Images]. But they are hiding the fact that they have dropped him and say they have rested him. This is more or less similar to what had happened with Sourav Ganguly [Images] recently when he was dropped for an ODI against Australia. The selectors were reluctant to say he was dropped. So it continues in the same fashion. Then you get branded into a situation that the selectors do not say the truth.

Could you be specific about exactly what you mean?

I think it is about time you started plain talking. I mean no matter what you are saying, the media is always going to read between the lines. But then if you stick to a certain picture for a certain length of time, people will get used to the fact that you are not somebody who is backtracking on what you say. So if what you see is what you get, it is the best way to go about things.

I mean having a few things in your mind and then saying something else is not a right thing to do. It did not work in Ganguly's case. I thought that was a poor instance. It was a wrong instance, although it was later corrected. But that is the way it is. You have to move on.

There has been a growing feeling that the selectors tend to be dictated by an autocratic BCCI from time to time. Do you agree?

I think I would not agree with what you say because the selection committee I was a part of did not have any big interference. And if there was any interference, it was justifiable. When you make a mistake, like in the case of Ganguly, where there was a mistake, the parent body has every right to interfere because they are the ones who appoint the selectors. But if the BCCI is going to get into every selection of who should be in the 15, it will not be a nice thing. Such a thing never happened when I was around. But if the BCCI is doing that, I think you have a right to complain.

How was your rapport with the then chairman of selectors, Kiran More, when you were on the national panel?

Very good, extremely good! I shared a very good relationship with More, both on and off. Inside the selection committee, we did have differences of opinions. That is always going to be there in every selection committee. I always found that he was very meticulous, very organised in the selection committee meetings. We knew exactly the agenda that would come up and who were the players on whom we might have had discussions. But few things were happening along with that.

Once, on the morning of a Test match in Chennai, we selectors were standing outside the dressing room and debating whether Aakash Chopra should play or Yuvraj Singh [Images] in front of everybody irrespective of the media glare. Ganguly was the captain. So much was happening in Indian cricket. This was one thing that could have been avoided. In home matches the selectors in consultation with the captain decide the playing eleven. I went back and in the next selection committee meeting I did mention that we should never discuss about the playing eleven the way we did in Chennai that morning.

So such kind of a situation could be avoided. We found that we leave the chairman, have a chat with him and then go away and start a discussion with the captain. So from then on I think mostly the discussions to play the final eleven is done the evening before. And I think that is a good change we probably brought about.

Were there occasions when the chairman may have tried to dictate or influence you or your fellow-selectors?

It always happens. In a five-man committee you have to influence other people with what you say. It is much like what a lawyer does. And you need to have your reasons for that. If your reasons are good enough, everybody is going to accept that. There was a time when three selectors could get together and say what they wanted to and kind of ride over every decision. The chairman was left powerless because in a five-man committee it is three against two and there is no chance for him to cast his vote. To me, this does not make sense because the chairman is the one with the vision. He is supposed to be the architect. He is supposed to be the person to carry forward the ideas that he has. So if he is not the one who has a final say, it is ridiculous.

Were there certain 'ridiculous' incidents in certain selection committee meetings?

Some of the meetings were actually stormy. In one such meeting, Ganguly was included in the team as an all-rounder. I think it was the most ridiculous thing. You need to come in, yes, but you name him. You bring him back for a certain reasons and do not call him an all-rounder. Rather you should say: 'Okay, he is better than so and so.' But Ganguly coming in as an all-rounder?

This is the thing that happened. Three selectors got together and just ruled the meeting. Later on the things ironed out better, though. More, too, was getting better with time and experience. As I said earlier, the number of years you are there, you get better and become more mature about what you are doing. I am sure More understood that he needed to take other selectors into confidence. And it is a job that is full-time.

What are your other memories of the national selection committee you were a member of?

I remember the selectors used to sit away from the dressing room. But if you looked at the Australian selectors, Allan Border would sit with the team. So from then on I had to tell More that he would be better off doing a few things. I remember telling him: 'You were an outstanding cricketer yourself. You have played 49 Tests. If you sit away from the team, it is no use. But if you sit with the coach John Wright [Images], you might as well add a bit of value.'

I think he realised that. I am sure you would have seen a lot of time he was in the dressing room. Wright may not have liked that but then there were situations when he needed help. And I think More being there was a lot of help.

If parliamentary proceedings could be shown live on television, why can't the selection committee meetings, given the craze for cricket in India ?

I do not think it is required, because cricket is a sport. You have to have confidence in the people who are judging you. And the selection committee is judging the cricketers. They travel the length and breadth of the country to pick up the players. And you also should understand that they have a great deal of regard for the press. They read what the press writes and might even form or make an opinion out of it. So they get information all-round. And at the end of the day you might still go and criticise a certain decision. But still a decision has to be taken. Whether it is in public view or not, the decision still comes out.

Like I said, if people are transparent enough to tell the truth why a player was included and why a player was dropped, I do not think you need to go on to say we require to putting a camera in.

Are you happy with the traditional five-man selection committee and the way it functions?

Well, like everybody else, I also sit down and criticise the five-man selection committee, forgetting sometimes that I myself was a selector not long ago! I think it is a very cruel thing to criticise the selectors every now and then. In cricket, umpires and selectors are criticised by almost one and all. After an umpire makes a few decisions, he is going to be pulled for them. Similarly, the selection committee also gets pulled after every meeting for a couple of decisions. But ultimately both, umpires as well as selectors, have to make the decisions. But like I said earlier, if they are there for a length of time, the selectors can do a much better job.

But, to answer your question, I am not happy with the five-man selection committee. It should never be like that. My feeling is that you stick to three men or, at the most, four regardless of where they come from. They can all be from West Zone or North Zone; or East Zone or Central Zone; or South Zone. It does not matter. And ultimately it is going to be a paid job. Not only that, they should also have consultants for them.

I mean four men can make the decisions and the consultants will, say, draw a vision, like what you have at the National Cricket Academy . You have the national team and you have also the NCA going. The NCA has been trying to shape the cricketers, building the potential and nurturing whatever talents you have. It then tries and works on that. I think on similar terms you should have a few people who will come around and do the job for you as consultants.

Don't you think we should have selectors who have played a certain number of Tests and ODIs? At least two in the current selection committee have never represented India as players�

Okay, but what cricket have you played to be writing on the game and players? My point of view is not that. There are people who are educated enough, understand the game well and they can do a decent job. What kind of cricket the administrators have played to be administrating the game? The point is the job of a selector is to look at the talented player, how he would fit into the team, how to make the most of his potential and how he would eventually perform for the side. I think it really does not matter what amount of cricket you have played.

There are players who have not played because of certain reasons. When Ganguly first came to me, he said: 'I have been lucky to play these many matches. You have not been lucky to play.' I still remember his words. Not too many people will come out and say so boldly. It was one of the most courteous things someone has said to me.

Ganguly could easily have told me: 'You have not played any cricket and have no right to be saying this.' But he never said that. I think it makes a lot of difference for a person to know that others understand him and how difficult his job is. Everybody has a stature. You are writing on the game. I am commentating on the game today. I may not play the same kind of shot which a Gautam Gambhir [Images] plays.

The point is those who have played for India may be aware of the enormous pressure a cricketer has to deal with, in terms of intense competition for a place in the national side as well as insatiable public expectations...

I do understand your point. You name a company head. He has worked through a certain period of time. And he is taking the entire company on his shoulders. That is the experience. So if you have people who have been selectors for ten years or so for their state teams and other things, there is no reason why they cannot do a decent job on the national scene as well.

This is the kind of a thing you look for in a resume for a selector. You look for it and say: 'Okay, he has got this kind of background and he has spent a number of years doing the job. He has the credentials.'

Do the selectors get lured by the lucre? Can a player influence them by offering a bribe? Kiran More and Pranab Roy, when they were national selectors, had accused the Maharashtra player Abhijeet Kale of offering them a bribe for his selection in the Indian team that toured Australia in 2003-04...

I would not want to answer this question. I have never been offered a bribe and I have never taken it. So I leave it at that.

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