3 things that made MSK Prasad's tenure as India's chief selector highly controversial

Renin Wilben Albert

MSK Prasad

BCCI President Sourav Ganguly on Sunday confirmed that the tenure of the selection panel led by MSK Prasad has ended. "Tenures are finished. They have done a good job,” Ganguly said after attending BCCI's 88th Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Prasad was appointed chairman of the selection committee in 2015. He was soon joined by Gagan Khoda, while Jatin Paranjpe, Sarandeep Singh and Devang Gandhi were added to the panel in 2016. While all of them had played for India, they possessed very little international experience, which was questioned at various points during their tenure.

During the term of Prasad and Co as selectors, India reached the final of the Champions Trophy in 2017, semi-final of the World Cup in 2019, and also rose to No. 1 in the Test rankings. However, Indian legends like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have often questioned the capability of the selectors.

With Prasad’s tenure ending, we look back at three things that made his time as BCCI chief selector a rather controversial one.

#1 Dropping Rayudu in favour of 'three-dimensional' Shankar

Ambati Rayudu

The biggest surprise in India’s squad for the 2019 World Cup was the selection of all-rounder Vijay Shankar instead of Hyderabad batsman Ambati Rayudu.

“We did give a few more chances to Rayudu but Vijay Shankar gives three dimensions. He can bat, if the conditions are overcast he can bowl, plus he is a fielder. We are looking at Vijay Shankar as a No. 4,” chief selector Prasad said while explaining Shankar’s selection ahead of Rayudu.

Rayudu responded to this by tweeting, “Just Ordered a new set of 3d glasses to watch the world cup.”

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While Rayudu did not have a great run in the build-up to the World Cup, he was the highest run-getter for India in the ODIs on the tour of New Zealand with 190 runs in five innings at an average of 63.33. Skipper Virat Kohli had even openly proclaimed that Rayudu’s was India’s choice for number four at the World Cup. 

Vijay Shankar

The last-minute snub definitely stung Rayudu. And Prasad drew more flak after Shankar flopped in the World Cup -- three matches, 58 runs and two wickets -- before being ruled out with an injury.

#2 Stance on Dhoni’s retirement

MS Dhoni

The retirement of MS Dhoni has arguably been the most debated topic of the year in Indian cricketing circles. As chairman of selectors, Prasad did have his say on the issue. But rather surprisingly, his stance on the issue was nowhere in sync with what either head coach Ravi Shastri or BCCI President Sourav Ganguly had to say.

Prasad, while announcing the squad for the Bangladesh series, proclaimed, “We are moving on, we are very clear. Post World Cup we have been clear. We started backing (Rishabh) Pant and wanted to see him do well. He may not have had the best of matches but we are clear, we are focusing on him only.

“We’re looking at younger options after the World Cup, so you can understand our thought process. We definitely had a chat with Dhoni and he also endorses our view of backing youngsters,” he had added.

Sourav Ganguly

On the other hand, Ganguly, who earlier said Dhoni will get the respect he deserves as a great, recently stated, “There is clarity, but certain things cannot be said on public platform. There is absolute clarity on MS Dhoni and you'll find out in time."

Ganguly’s comments came after Shastri claimed that IPL 2020 could decide Dhoni’s international future.

"It all depends on when he starts playing and how he is playing during the IPL. What are the other people doing with the wicket-keeping gloves or what is the form of those players as opposed to Dhoni's form. The IPL becomes a massive tournament because that could be the last tournament after which more or less your 15 is decided," Shastri told IANS recently.

#3 Questionable selections and sackings

Sanju Samson

The biggest criticism of the Prasad-led selection panel has been their inability to be consistent with selection.

After the controversy over Rayudu’s World Cup axe, the constant backing being given to Rishabh Pant despite a lengthy run of failures has been questioned. Recently, Sanju Samson was dropped from the squad for the West Indies T20Is in spite of him not being given a single chance to prove his worth against Bangladesh.

The unfair axing of Samson led to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeting, "Very disappointed to see @IamSanjuSamson dropped without a chance. He carried the drinks for three T20Is & has been promptly discarded. Are they testing his batting or his heart?"

Backing Tharoor, former Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh also replied, asking Ganguly to change the selection panel.

"I guess they r testing his heart #selectionpanelneedtobechanged need strong people there.. hope dada @SGanguly99 will do the needful,” Harbhajan tweeted.

Samson got lucky as the injury to opener Shikhar Dhawan paved the way for him to make a return to the same squad from which he was dropped earlier. But his shoddy treatment at the hands of the selectors didn't go unnoticed.

Kedar Jadhav

Meanwhile, the selectors’ decision to retain under-performing all-rounder Kedar Jadhav has also drawn a lot of flak. Jadhav was dropped from the playing XI mid-way through the World Cup after he struggled to make an impact. However, he was retained for the ODI series in West Indies, and finds his name in the home series squad against the same team.

Prasad’s explanation that Jadhav hadn't done anything wrong to be excluded was puzzling to say the least.