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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

What is the plan for MS Dhoni, new BCCI selectors asked during interview

MS Dhoni, who hasn’t played any competitive cricket after the World Cup, was a major topic of discussion during the interview process.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Devendra Pandey | Kolkata/mumbai |
Updated: March 5, 2020 11:00:39 am
MS Dhoni during the practice session at MAC Stadium, in Chennai. (PTI Photo)

How would they handle the team management comprising Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, and what is their view on MS Dhoni’s future were the two key questions in the interviews to choose two new selectors for the Indian cricket team. The eventual winners, Sunil Joshi and Harvinder Singh, this paper has learnt, said they would keep the communication lines open with Dhoni and would let the IPL performance decide his future.

Other questions asked by the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising former India allrounder Madan Lal, medium-pacer RP Singh, and wicket-keeper Sulakshana Naik were about addressing players’ return to competitive cricket after an injury and participation of the top players in domestic cricket, when they are available.

The perception about the MSK Prasad-led selection committee was that it was too lightweight to stand up to the collective profile of Kohli, the captain, and Shastri. The selectors’ mettle came under the scanner especially when they failed to find a proper No.4 that cost India the World Cup last year.

According to a cricket board insider, during the interviews today, the CAC asked the candidates how they would deal with the team management. Their replies notwithstanding, the CAC decided that the performance of the selectors committee should be assessed over a one-year period.

READ | Sunil Joshi replaces MSK Prasad as chairman of BCCI’s selection committee

Dhoni, who hasn’t played any competitive cricket after the World Cup, was a major topic of discussion during the interview process. This paper understands that the candidates were asked if they see the former captain as an option for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. The replies they received focused on Dhoni’s performance in the upcoming IPL.

“Retirement is a personal decision. As long as a player is active, he can be considered for selection. The selectors were advised (by the CAC) to keep the communication lines open, when it comes to big players; that the chief selector should directly communicate with the player to explain the thought process of the selection committee,” a BCCI source said.

L Sivaramakrishnan, Venkatesh Prasad, and Rajesh Chauhan were the other contenders.

MS Dhoni practicing in the nets. (Source: PTI Photo)

After the interviews were over, Lal gave the lowdown. “They (selected candidates) were very clear about their thought process. We asked a few tough questions as well, but they were very clear and gave straightforward answers. We asked them about their communication skills, we also asked them how they would handle the team management. Keeping everything in mind, their (Joshi and Harvinder) interviews had been the best,” Lal said, adding that while picking the selectors the CAC also kept in mind that they will have to deal with a strong captain.

With regards to injury and domestic cricket; not many moons ago, Jasprit Bumrah returned to the Indian team, after recuperating from a lower-back stress fracture, undercooked. The Prasad-led selection committee straightaway had picked him for the home limited-overs series against Sri Lanka and Australia. The fast bowler struggled to hit his straps.

READ | CSK has helped me improve in everything, says MS Dhoni

It is learnt that the CAC has communicated to the selectors that when a player is coming back from an injury, he has to play at least one domestic game before being considered for India selection. The CAC will recommend this to the BCCI as well, expecting the parent body to implement it. As far as playing domestic cricket is concerned, the CAC asked the candidates if they could ensure that all top players turn up for domestic cricket, unless they are playing for India or are out injured.

The CAC stressed upon the fact that it should be mandatory for every cricketer to play domestic cricket, while the selectors must give prime importance to performances in domestic cricket.

It is learnt that the selectors were told in no uncertain terms that they have been doing a “professional work” and should be “accountable and answerable” to the CAC and the BCCI. This is a reason why the one-year assessment period has been set.

Lal explained that Joshi’s vast experience proved to be the clincher. “First of all, he is experienced and has had been to different places. He coached Uttar Pradesh, he was previously with Bangladesh. I asked him how he handled Bangladesh selectors. And he had been with four-five other teams as well, including Jammu & Kashmir. He has performed the hardest jobs. His thoughts were the best. I liked him being straightforward. Whatever he said I have taken it. After one year, if we find he hasn’t done a good job, we will see and take another decision,” Lal said.

WATCH | MS Dhoni returns to scene in CSK’s first training session

Although the Lodha Committee followed by the new BCCI constitution mentioned about picking national selectors without any zonal boundaries, the BCCI/CAC ostensibly stuck to picking selectors on a zonal basis. The CAC didn’t shortlist former India allrounder Ajit Agarkar despite him being the most high-profile applicant in a pool of 40. With Jatin Paranjpe already a selector from the West Zone, the CAC preferred candidates from the South Zone and Central Zone, where vacancies arose.

“Nothing like that. Our zonal system is one of the best and keeping that in mind we have picked the best selectors. We have picked the best selectors zone-wise,” Lal explained.

“Those who played Test matches, we gave them the priority,” added one of his colleagues, sitting next to the CAC chairman at the press conference. The Joshi-helmed selection committee will pick the Indian team for three home ODIs against South Africa.

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