Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Should the Chairman have said that?

Anyone tuned in to the type of blunt comments Chairman of Selectors Dilip Vengsarkar was prone to making shouldn’t be surprised by this. But Vengsarkar landed himself into a spot of bother when CNN-IBN was able to squeeze out some inside information from him on the selection of Virender Sehwag for the upcoming World Cup. And it was on camera, making hastily issued denials by anyone later unlikely.

The gist of what Vengsarkar said (or more accurately, admitted to) was that Sehwag was picked for the squad because Rahul Dravid went to bat for him. He further seemed to indicate that several players in the team thought Sehwag capability rather than performance warranted him a place in the team. The comments from Vengsarkar are heavily directed by the reporter - they are not open ended - and on repeat viewing appear to be supportive of Dravid. But with TV editing all but the sound bites, it looks worse than it probably was.

As media channels are prone to, CNN-IBN who conducted the interview, went to town with the “explosive” information. It’s a scoop, for sure. God knows fresh breaking news is hard to come by in a world where any yahoo who can type a sentence writes about and analyzes cricket “in depth” - but enough about me.

Vengsarkar’s comments predictably irked some BCCI officials. There are several levels at which Vengsarkar’s comments may spark outrage. BCCI secretary Ratnakar Shetty is quoted as saying “Such types of comments, even if they are not meant to be, could create controversies.” Huh? Creating a controversy can’t be bad in and of itself.

Let’s take a look at the different types of outrage over this.

The Chairman shouldn’t be saying things like these on the eve of an all-important tournament. It impacts team morale! This chestnut is quite bogus in its logic. Throw a bunch of men in a hotel, on a bus, on a tour for months at an end and there are no secrets anymore. Surely Sehwag knows exactly what went on in the selection committee. Even if he doesn’t have the details, he probably understands that Dravid pulled him in against opposition from one important selector. If he knows this already, his morale has already suffered any damage it could have. Same goes for the rest of the team. The only thing that will impact the team morale any more is when journalists start pestering the team for sound bites at every turn.

Once the selection committee makes a decision, everyone should stick by it! Sure, there is noble morality in this. We all fought, had our chance to say our bit, some won their cases, others lost, so why whine? Let’s just accept it and strengthen Team India together. But surely a transparent selection process in the first place would be both welcome and preclude such controversies later. How many of us would like to have a selection process that is not as murky as the one we have today? I thought so!

We need more diplomacy from the Chairman! I’ll buy this simply because it could make people feel uncomfortable about what they say with Vengsarkar around. Surely if he blabs so easily, then someone’s own comments could be compromised later. Can you imagine a future headline that was to say: “Vengsarkar says Chappell can’t stand Ganguly’s haircut!” Confidentiality has to be in place when selection occurs on that count I believe Vengsarkar caused genuine discomfort to his fellow officials. But if you announced each team with a very clear and concise explanation of why someone was selected and why another was left out, and be honest about any risks you might be taking by picking a particular player, then these confidentiality-busting outbursts need not occur. And yes, if the captain wanted Sehwag, what is wrong in letting people know about it? Surely the fans aren’t naïve enough to believe that five selectors, a captain and the coach all smile, nod and agree with each other for several hours when jotting down the team.

We have an honest and blunt Chairman of Selectors trying to give the fans insights like we might never had had before. Let’s not bury him for doing that.

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