India suffered a brutal 333-run defeat in the First Test match against Australia in Pune. This ended India’s impressive run of going 19 Tests unbeaten, and it was the first Test they had lost since their tour of Sri Lanka in 2015. However, amazingly, India never played an unchanged XI in successive Tests, but rather made at least one change after every Test. No other sides are known for doing this. Australia have a rather different method, in which they will rarely change their side after winning a Test. If it’s a winning side, it’s the best side. Thus, when India announced their side today, at the toss of the Second Test in Bangalore, it was no surprise to hear Virat Kohli announcing two changes to their side.
Yet, one of the changes came as a huge shock. After over fifty Test matches missed, opener Abhinav Mukund returned to the India side. There is no way that Mukund is the third best Test opener in India. His inclusion in the squad itself was bizarre, and with Murali Vijay picking up an injury, Mukund found himself facing Mitchell Starc in tough conditions in Bangalore. What a surprise: he was dismissed for a duck after missing a Starc yorker. What happened to Parthiv Patel? Where is Shreyas Iyer? India’s selection committee has been proven to be a flawed system in the past, and the situation is no better today.
India’s Selection Process
The Indian selection process has come under heavy criticism over the past few years, after it was accused of being corrupt. There was traditionally a five-person Selection Committee, which is currently chaired by Mannava Prasad, a former Indian wicket-keeper. Prasad only played six Tests for India and never made a mark on the international stage. India preferred a “zonal” process of selection, where each member of the committee would represent one of the five zones of India.
However, under the zonal system, the committee members were under heavy pressure to promote players from their own zones and this lead to each committee member having personal self-interests. The captain and the coach are present at these selection meetings, but actually have no vote when it comes to choosing the squad. MS Dhoni once vented his frustration at this, when he was captain, as he said that he was unable to have the players he wanted.
Former India coach John Wright wrote in his autobiography that there was a need to have paid selectors who could be held accountable for poor decisions. This contradicted India’s system, in which the members of the selection committee held it as an honorary position and were not being paid independently for their work. After India’s awful 2007 World Cup campaign, the BCCI announced that they were planning to overhaul the zonal selection process and to introduce a fairer selection process. Nothing ever happened. Fast forward another ten years, and these problems are still recurring in Indian cricket.
As of September 2016, the zonal selection process was “officially scrapped”. The Lodha Committee report suggested a team of three retired Test players who would take charge of the selection process across the whole of India. However, the BCCI didn’t fully implement this. Instead, the BCCI increased the number of selectors back to five, and reduced the level of experience needed to be on the Selection Committee. It was also hardly surprising to see that each of the new Selection Committee came from several different states and spanned several zones. The new reforms have done remarkably little.
It will always be hard to win a Test match if you don’t have your eleven best players on the field. India’s flawed selection process has meant that this has not always been the case and can be easily shown by Abhinav Mukund’s place in this India side. His domestic form has been far worse than Parthiv Patel’s, and Patel even played and scored lots of runs against England. Mukund also somehow got chosen ahead of opener Shreyas Iyer, who hit a remarkable double hundred in the warm-up match against Australia A. There have been continual biases deeply rooted within the heart of India’s Selection Committee, and this has drastically hindered the development of Indian cricket.
The BCCI’s failure to fully implement the Lodha Committee’s recommendations show that it is wary of overthrowing India’s traditional selection process and almost fear the unknown. Until India manage to turn to paid independent selectors, then we can expect more of the same frustration.