‘Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik had enough chances … selectors backed wrong players’

Shamik Chakrabarty
You should be very clear about who you are going to pick at least six months before the tournament. You should be very clear about who are going to be your future. Sanjay Jagdale – former selector (1st from right)

Sanjay Jagdale was part of the selection committees that picked the Indian squads for the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, and also the 2007 inaugural World T20. In an interview with The Indian Express, Jagdale, also an ex-BCCI secretary, spoke about how the Indian team suffered from some flawed selections this term. Excerpts:

India went to the World Cup without a settled middle-order. The middle-order wasn t equipped to handle pressure. Do you agree?

Yes, this has been my view for the last three-four months. I would like to have Ajinkya Rahane at No. 4. You can t have players (in a World Cup) squad who couldn t secure their spots in the Indian team despite playing since 2003. They are not your future also. Rahane s first tour in England was terrific and he has been performing well outside the sub-continent. Very few batsmen did it besides Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara (in the longer format). So why can t you have somebody like Rahane just to ensure that you play out 50 overs when situations get tight? Knockout matches have different pressure.

I also just couldn t understand why Rishabh Pant wasn t made a permanent part (of the ODI squad) right from the beginning. He got a Test hundred in England and then a Test hundred in Australia. And then for the ODI series (in Australia), you sent him back! He should have had the maximum number of matches before the World Cup.

Was it a case of too many experiments …

They (selection committee) kept on experimenting with Vijay Shankar, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik… Karthik has been playing since 2003, when I was a selector. Rayudu also. You can t pick teams on the basis of the IPL performance. You need players who have performed well outside the sub-continent.

You had been part of selection committees that picked the teams for the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Before a World Cup, ideally when the squad should be nailed?

You should be very clear about who you are going to pick at least six months before the tournament. You should be very clear about who are going to be your future. Before the 2003 World Cup, we had an India A team s tour of South Africa. I still remember I suggested that both Yuvraj (Singh) and (Mohammad) Kaif should be part of that, because they were going to be part of the World Cup. They were our future then.

In 2003, you had a strong character as India captain, Sourav Ganguly. Did the selection committee ever feel intimidated?

No, never. Chandu Borde was the chairman of selectors. We always had very healthy discussions. Most of the time we agreed with Sourav and John Wright. But there were times when we didn t agree. But there was never any hard feelings. Same with Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell (in 2007). Dilip Vengsarkar was the chairman of selectors then. When the selection committee felt they were taking a right decision, they stuck to it. Borde and Dilip were excellent chairmen. But we worked as a team. We thrived on mutual respect.

Do you get the feeling that the present selection committee can t stand up to the Indian team management?

I can t say. But I was really shocked when Pant wasn t picked. I also feel sorry for somebody like Manish Pandey. Shreyas Iyer, too, was unfortunate. I don t feel sorry for Rayudu. Rayudu, Karthik; they had enough chances. Manish Pandey got a hundred in Australia. After that he didn t get many chances. I think the preparation part could have been much better. They were backing the wrong players.

Do you agree that there had been too many changes in the No. 4, 5 and 6 batting slots at the expense of stability?

You need to give the players confidence. There was something wrong in the selection mindset or thinking, because ultimately Pant came into the fold. But why didn t you groom him properly, with regards to international cricket (before the World Cup)? He played a bad shot yesterday. But OK, he was batting well and the talent was there. No doubt about it. Every young player needs time to grow unless he is a Sunil Gavaskar or a Sachin Tendulkar. Give Pant two years at least.

Do you think that the selectors and the team management handled Dhoni well, with regards to his batting positions?

He should have had been at No. 4 or 5. India didn t have an alternative to Dhoni.