Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sharath on TN cricket selection policy

Bold call by TN selectors
Abhinav Mukund to lead the team for the rest of the season
‘Injured’ Prasanna will now figure just as a player, Balaji dropped on turners, Sathish brought back for Ranji this season but to play only on turners

‘N Srinivasan is the perfect role model for all TN cricketers’ – S Sharath, Chairman of TN Selectors

Mid last year, just ahead of him being appointed the chairman of the Tamil Nadu state selection committee, S Sharath told me that, if appointed, he would be bold in his decision making (almost hinting at a frustration in the selection policy of the previous committee) and that he would be unafraid to take ‘decisions’ in the best interests of TN cricket ( that story was held back because it was to be ahead of its time!!!!!)

Just over 6months into the Season, he has lived up to his word and has done exactly that. And it is not about the results that TN has achieved - for that has been quite inconsistent this year. For the record, TN lost the season opener to Karnataka and later two successive first innings loss on home turf meant they were in a tight spot. Going with the square turner at Chepauk brought them two wins that places them well on their way to a 2nd or 3rd spot in the Group ( with one away match to go against Baroda).

Fearless Approach
Sharath has adopted a fearless approach to his selection process almost completely opposite to the one adopted for 5 years by his predecessor B Kalyanasundaram. Former captains and players in Tamil Nadu expressed disappointment at the whole process of the previous selection committee. They also expressed shock at Inderjit getting into the leadership role in the smaller version games last season when he was not even a regular in the squad.It was also rumoured that the 'cricketing intelligence' of the selection committee members were not best utilised.

They say that Sharath had been handed out a very shaky squad at the beginning of the year by Kalyanasundaram making his task that much harder and lot more difficult in terms of decision making.

And this story is not about positive results of the last two matches. TN tried the spinner friendly track against Bengal last season and it back fired and TN failed to quality. There could have been a repeat this year as well. Just that two rank bad turners have resulted in two wins, both within three days.

It is about the new Selection committee chief’s clear thought process and his ability to communicate his thinking upfront to the players concerned, whenever there has been a big decision in these 6months that is refreshing. And there have been quite a few big ones that you would not have expected from the previous committee.

These days, Sharath does not mince words. You know you are talking to someone with a 100matches in his bag and he understands the struggles of a cricketer but at the same time, he gives you the impression that the interest of the state is foremost in his mind and that nothing else matters.

He asserts, 'The job of a selectors is to identify good talent and then back them with solid support.'

Abhinav Mukund to lead for the rest of the season
At the beginning of the season, he chose R Prasanna for the captaincy reasoning that Prasanna was captaining his club team and he had led the TN team to a victory in the Buchi Babu Tournament. And he had taken TN out of the woods many a time in the middle order.

But unfortunately with Prasanna picking up an injury, the captaincy mantle passed on to Abhinav Mukund (who was the Vice Captain at the start of the season) at a time when TN was struggling for points. And as luck would have it TN security two bonus points wins in the two matches under Abhinav albeit on two square turners at Chepauk while Prasanna was still recovering from his injury (another story goes that Prasanna may have been fit for the match against Bombay but was asked to ‘rest out’).

With TN having picked up 14points from the two matches and now almost assured of a spot in the knock out phase, Abhinav has been handed the captaincy for the rest of the season. And Prasanna will figure in the squad just as a player.

Many Big Decisions
On the unprecedented decision to hand Abhinav the captaincy for the rest of the season and taking it away from Prasanna (who was slated to lead for the full season), Sharath says ‘There is no room for sympathy in this game. It is a hard decision to take it away from Prasanna but one will have to take it in the interest of the game. It is unfortunate that Prasanna was injured but Abhinav, even accepting that the chepauk pitch was a spinner’s delight and suited our strengths, won two big games for us and is on a roll. And he is excited to take things forward for TN cricket.’ 

‘I have spoken to Prasanna and explained to him the rationale behind the move. He will be an automatic choice in the squad for he is a quality player and has contributed runs when needed but in terms of captaincy, we are moving on with Abhinav. It is a decision Prasanna will understand but he may not necessarily endorse. If I were in his place, I too would have found it a hard pill to swallow.’

Interestingly, Dinesh Karthik will play the role of the Vice Captain in the team (yes, he will play deputy to his closest pal in the team).

Here again, he says, there are no ego issues. 'Every team member has to accept roles in the best interest of the team and in the current scheme of things, Karthik will be the vice captain to Abhinav.'

Dropping L Balaji
Earlier in the season, Sharath communicated to L Balaji that he would not be part of the team’s plans on turning wickets and for the first time in many decades, Tamil Nadu went into a Ranji match without a single fast bowler,with Vijay Shankar opening with the new ball. Balaji has not been part of the Ranji squad in the turners on home turf. Quite a dramatic turnaround for the former captain of the state but just the kind of decision making that you would expect from someone like Sharath in his current frame of mind!!!

 The last time one remembers the team opening the bowling with a part timer may have been when V Sivaramakrishnan / K Srikkanth bowled a few overs with the new ball (but even then it was with one fast bowler at the other end).

Once again, Sharath had a one on one discussion with Balaji and communicated to him the line of thinking of the selectors. Sharath says that Balaji took it in his stride and that ‘we need more players like him who respect the decision of the selectors without sulking.’

Bringing back Sathish
Another big decision this year was bringing back R Sathish into the Ranji squad who had been away from Selectors' sights. He had done nothing dramatically different this year to warrant Ranji selection, if the earlier committee had not seen him fitting the bill. For years he had been scoring runs in the league for Chemplast and this year too was no different. It is just that the previous selection committee chose to ignore him completely. One always wondered as to why a player like Sathish did not get a look in here.

But with Sharath at the helm, Sathish came back straightaway into the squad. Sharath justifies ‘Sathish does not need to prove himself to us by scoring in the league. He is one of the most extra ordinary team players I have seen in the last 20years. He adjusts incredibly well for the team and he is as good a fielder as I have seen. In many ways, he reminds me of ‘Sweety’ Suresh (former state selector and Sharath’s Ranji team mate) who was a great team man.’

But Sharath has a message for Sathish as well. 'He will be an integral part of the team on turners because he plays spin well but it is likely that he will not get a look in on green tops.' And this too has been communicated clearly to Sathish.

Interestingly, when Prasanna gets fit and if TN plays on a turner, it could be a battle between him and Sathish for the middle order spot, especially given that Inderjit and Vijay Shankar have scored big runs in recent matches.

Refreshing attitude
It is truly refreshing to hear that the thought process of the selectors is being communicated to each and every player in the team by the Chairman of the committee. One has rarely heard of this in the past in TN cricket.

Sharath believes that the recent wins are just a beginning and is not overly excited about these two wins. Sharath says that beating Bombay was a historic moment in TN cricket (Yes, in more ways than one.SK Yadav relinquished the Bombay captaincy a day after losing to TN. Never before has a Bombay captain quit after a loss to TN) and that it is an opportunity for TN players to take this confidence into the future matches.

‘There is scope for improvement and there is a long way to go. The important thing is that ‘the players have realised that they have to move on’.’

‘We have a clear policy in place for the future, on where we want to go and how we want to achieve it.’

Strategy to get fast bowlers back
While there are a few good spinners, he says, that there is a clear shortage of good fast bowlers. ‘There are about 8-9fast bowlers now. But we need to groom another 7-8fast bowlers and need to have around 15 high quality bowlers to choose from. We are in the process of identifying them and then moulding them for the future. It is a long term process but I am at it.’

Whenever possible, they will be guided by B Arun, the director of the TNCA Academy.

Sharath believes that summer camp for Ranji players and skills training camps are important for the team. And it looks like he will impress upon the TNCA to have it organised this summer. 

'We need quality bowlers to win matches for us'.

Show the fighting spirit of NS
Sharath has a strong and loud message for his state players ‘My TN team should have the fighting spirit of the TNCA President N Srinivasan. Even if they imbibe a fraction of the spirit of NS, they will perform consistently well in the next 4-5years. He is the perfect role model for all TN cricketers in terms of the spirit to fight.’

Sharath believes that it is this spirit that is required to transform the much spoken about and touted talent of TN cricketers into on field performance.


Anonymous said...

Bringing in R Sathish was a masterstroke. Brilliant close in fielder and TN needed someone like him to pull of magic on the field , which he did gleefully. With regards to captaincy, Abhinav Mukund impressed a lot against Mumbai, by bringing in part timers Murali Vijay and R Sathish to provide the breakthroughs. Many conservative conventional captains wud have sticked with their three full-time spinners. Gud to see him thinking shrewdly. It will be interesting to c how we play against Baroda and more importantly whether we have the bandwidth to pick 20 wickets on green top!!

Sriram Sambasivam said...

Would definitely like to see the young guns ShahRukh Khan and Maruthi Raghav get a look in, they definitely deserve to be in the team.

Anonymous said...

Insightful! Loved watching Sharath play..had innate confidence particularly facing spinners.

Anonymous said...

Nice work Prabhu hope he has a good coach to back him up otherwise the chances of succeeding 
Is very less 

Anonymous said...

Good to read an article from you after quite a while

Anonymous said...

Nice one Prabhu.

But I hope doesn't become like a Louis Van Gaal :-)

His strategy clicking in a game and while just when the euphoria about his masterstroke reaching the crescendo, he losing his plot !!

Hope Sharath's strategy and ideas are successful in the long run.