Mumbai: Dhoni is a good captain. Under him, we do have losses, but overall he has done well. The team responds well to his captaincy and he gets the players to rally around him.
K Srikkanth on Sept 12, 2012
Dhoni's become stale and doesn't know what to do when things go out of the way. He shouldn't be the Test captain anymore. Had I been the chairman of selectors, I would have picked Dhoni as a wicketkeeper-batsman but it is time to look beyond him as a Test captain.
K Srikkanth on Dec 17, 2012
He's only good to captain in T20. His recent ODI record hasn't been very good and he's losing home series. He's batting well… let him do that and give the captaincy to Virat Kohli.
K Srikkanth on Jan 3, 2013
I'm not the only one mildly puzzled by this dramatic about-turn from Krish Srikkanth, till recently chairman of selectors, and a staunch defender of MS Dhoni all through India's 8-0 losing streak in England and Australia when at least three of his colleagues on the selection committee wanted Dhoni out.
I've chosen only recent quotes because Srikkanth has every right to change his mind, over time. But it is a bit tough to fathom why he is suddenly on the offensive, particularly against Dhoni the captain, ever since he completed his four-year term as selector in September 2012. India's disastrous run has been on for the past 18 months.
Srikkanth had every opportunity to make the changes he is now so openly advocating, almost daily, on prime-time television and in newspaper columns. If he believed Dhoni was India's best leadership option all these years, how is the Indian captain now 'confused', 'stale' and incapable of motivating the players after three months in which India added Test defeats to England and one-day losses against Pakistan, at home, to a long tally of poor results?
Incidentally, statistics show that Dhoni's winning percentage in the Twenty20 format, where Srikkanth believes he should continue to captain, is poorer compared to his record in one-day matches: roughly 47 per cent compared to nearly 56 in ODIs (Dhoni's record in Tests is 44 per cent). If we distil the numbers further to Dhoni's record as captain in India, the winning percentage in T20 matches is 37 compared to about 60 for ODIs (and 58 per cent in Tests).
India have performed consistently poorly in T20 cricket in the time they reached the number one ranking in Tests and won the 50-over World Cup. They have failed to reach the knockout stages of three successive World T20 tournaments, their last attempt as recent as October 2012.
It is possible that now that Srikkanth is not on the selection committee, he is free to speak his mind and express personal opinions. He is no longer on the board's payroll and his association as brand ambassador with the Chennai Super Kings ended in 2011. Two weeks ago, he was appointed mentor and strategic analyst for the Sunrisers, the Hyderabad franchise that replaced the Deccan Chargers. What is worth considering here is that BCCI has, since 2007, officially imposed a gag on the selectors.
What began with the board taking objection to a guest column by Dilip Vengsarkar, then selection committee chairman, in the Times of India in 2007, resulted in a major confrontation between the selection committee and the BCCI, with three of the five selectors threatening to quit. Vengsarkar argued that the columns were an essential source of revenue; being a selector in those days offered little besides power and prestige.
The matter was sorted only after Sharad Pawar, then BCCI president, intervened and the board introduced an annual fee of Rs 25 lakh for selection committee members. The post now commands Rs 60 lakh. And involves the selectors' sacrificing lucrative contracts as experts with television channels and newspapers, a requirement Srikkanth had to abide by as well in 2008. The one thing that did not change? The gag.
This is not to suggest that the BCCI is doing the selectors, the media or the cricket-loving public any favours by imposing this gag. All it has contributed is needless speculation about why certain players are picked and dropped at will, and some others are permanently on the bench.
Coming back to Srikkanth, I attempted to count the number of interviews he doled out during his four-year tenure as selection committee chairman (I'm not including the impromptu press conferences he agreed to after selection meetings) when he was supposedly gagged, and stopped when I got to 50. Ever-ready to be interviewed, his only caveat was that he would not answer queries about why one player made the cut over another, or what was discussed between him and his colleagues behind closed doors. I did attempt to get a response from him for this piece, but Srikkanth cited a conflict of interest involving a syndicated newspaper column.
A former selector who has worked closely with Srikkanth described him as a 'loose cannon' and compared selection meetings during his tenure to his batting style: fast and furious. The word is that bitter disagreements between Dhoni and the previous selection committee are responsible for Srikkanth and Mohinder Amarnath's recent indictments. But differences between selectors and captains are hardly unusual, and one doesn't have to look back too far to find more examples, whether it was Vengsarkar and Rahul Dravid or Kiran More and Sourav Ganguly. A more recent example? The rift between Dhoni and Srikkanth's committee over RP Singh and Irfan Pathan, details of which were leaked generously to the media by the selectors.
Selection has always been a contentious and controversial issue in Indian cricket. From zonal politics to ego battles between selectors and captains, the problems are aplenty. The issue here is the recent outbursts by Srikkanth, who was content to toe the official line all along.
If the BCCI is so keen to gag the selectors and ensure their comments to the media cause no embarrassment or controversy, the least they can do is issue a press release that provides a logical explanation for the committee's selections. There is no explanation for why Virender Sehwag was dropped for the forthcoming one-day series against England. One can only guess his poor form and sloppy fielding have cost him, especially with a view to the 2015 World Cup.
Compare this with Cricket Australia's media release when the Australian selectors decided to drop Mike Hussey from the one-day team in Sydney earlier this year. "Taking a long-term view towards the ICC Cricket World Cup, the national selection panel has decided not to include Michael Hussey in the squad. Michael has been a tremendous ODI player for Australia over a long period of time, a match-winner for his country and his presence in coloured clothing will be sorely missed," was the official comment from John Inverarity, selection committee chairman.
The point here is if the selectors are gagged, why was Srikkanth handing out all those interviews during his term? If he was so keen on speaking to the media, should he not have been saying what he really believed? And if he wasn't saying what he believed, then does he deserve to be taken seriously now?