FORMER India captain and selection committee chief Dilip Vengsarkar has said a lot of thought was not applied before picking the side for the World Cup and everyone neglected the weak middle order. In a chat with The Indian Express, Vengsarkar spoke on various topics, including whether BCCI should pick only those former international cricketers who have played a significant number of international games. The current selection panel has played a combined 13 Tests and 31 ODIs. Excerpts:
As a former selector, what’s your assessment after India’s exit from the World Cup?
What I have realised is that a lot of thought was not applied before selecting the team. You need to have cover for all departments. You need to have a Plan B ready and it should be as good as Plan A. You are playing three wicketkeepers. Aapke pass batsmen hain nahi kya India mein (Don’t you have batsmen in India)? What is the point of domestic cricket, if you cannot spot talent and try to groom it for the international level. Or is it complete absence (talent) of it? I can’t believe it as lakhs of people are playing in India. In 50 overs, you need four or five batsmen.
Do you think we were highly dependent on the top three?
Yes, we were highly dependent on them. So we kept a blind eye on the batsman who follows. Till the semis, everyone clicked. In the semis when the score was 5 for 3, it was almost over. (Ravindra) Jadeja played a heroic inning but to expect him to play such kind of an inning is not correct. He is a fantastic all-rounder and there’s no question about his ability, but 4-5 batsmen should be able to take the team through.
Depending on three players, how can you expect to win? In every match, the top three was in great form but in the semi-finals, anything can happen. One good ball and you are gone. I had said this before, you need to have someone like Ajinkya Rahane or (Cheteshwar) Pujara, who have done very well in England and have explored the conditions. Keep experienced player as back-up. For back-up, India had (Rishabh) Pant, Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav. If you have such kind of selection, the result is there for everyone to see.
Was having Vijay Shankar at number four right?
It is very difficult to say, he was injured too. You can’t really blame the kid and I haven’t seen the boy enough. But there was not enough thinking going into selecting the team. The back-up should always be good.
What would you have done?
I would have groomed youngsters, which they (current selection committee) didn’t. You were playing Ambati Rayudu for the past two years with an eye on the World Cup. As a selector, if they thought Rayudu was the player, they should have selected him. You have invested on him, aur ab woh kharab ho gaya (that has gone waste).
When I was a selector, we selected with a conviction and kept the player’s future in mind. When I picked Ishant Sharma, I knew he won’t play a single game in England, except a warm-up game.
I handed him a debut in Dhaka keeping the Australia tour in mind because I knew he will be more useful there. Same with (Virender) Sehwag. I picked him when he was out of form but he was the best player in the country square of the wicket, so we picked him. I used to watch a lot of cricket, including junior cricket.
Do you think Shikhar Dhawan’s injury actually exposed the weak middle order? Especially that KL Rahul had to open?
Rohit (Sharma) played brilliantly, so did (Virat) Kohli and KL Rahul looked good but everyone neglected that middle-order slot.
How do you see Dhoni’s future? Should the selectors speak to him?
I will pick a player who is in form and fit to play. I will not segregate old and new players. The new player has to earn his place not because of his age but he should be as good as the old player. I have not seen Pant much except a few IPL games.
Dhoni is a great player and his contribution is huge. Player like Dhoni, you have to see form and fitness and the level of motivation. If he is motivated, in form and fit, he should continue. Great players always keep a certain standard for themselves. And if they feel it’s dropping, they will give it up. They know when to end it. They take pride in their performance and the team also. If that is dropping (form and fitness), the selectors can take a call. You can never force.
What advice do you have for the selection committee?
The next four years are very important. You have to spot talent and groom it properly. Selectors need ideas and experience too, but sometimes you can’t blame them.
Do you think in the future, BCCI should have selectors who have played quite a bit of international cricket?
Of course. If you don’t have vision, can’t spot talent, you cannot pick the right balance. For it, you need an experienced hand who has played a decent number of international matches. Experience is the key and it should be only international cricket because first-class player ko nahi jamega (he can’t manage). Those who have gone through the grind ,can pick better players.