Manchurian Candidate

This is a “Guest Column” written by a friend of the blog, Gautam.  Back in the day, Mohinder Amarnath called the Indian selection committee, “a bunch of jokers” but Gautam has gone a step further and has unearthed the conspiracy theory behind their seemingly stupid selection moves. Gautam’s rants will appear under the category “Wagle ki Duniya“- The Cricket Couch


When the British ruled the Indian subcontinent as one of its colonies, they introduced the game of cricket to the Maharajah’s and the aristocrats during afternoon sojourns while trying to relieve themselves of the boredom of governance. (And if Mr. Gowariker is to be believed, even the ladies managed to introduce the game to some of the locals). When they finally left, they left behind a divided subcontinent. Historians believe that the “Divide and Rule” policy was a clever strategy by the British to cling on to the colonial rule and if unable to still do so, the least they would do is leave a divided subcontinent as a scar and mark of their dominance for a period of history. Little is it known that the real reason of leaving a subcontinent with divided nations was to ensure that the British team would not face the wrath of a united sub-continental team for in their time they had scouted some serious bowling talent on the western banks of the Indus and an immense batting talent on the other side of the divide.

While the above fact could be unearthed by many smart minds, the British cleverly forged another idea so secretive and clever to ensure that a sub-continental team does not grow into a superpower that it would make the whole MI5 operations stand out like a black hockey player in NHL. They left behind a small group of people on both sides of the divide who were referred to by their runners simply as “The Selection Committee”. This group of people ensured that never did a team represent a country with all its force in any major competition. On both sides of the divide, the “committee” worked in mysterious and yet different ways to ensure that no-one deciphered that deep down they were trained by the same forces. The only thing common was that were smart enough not to completely select a bad team and therefore be caught out in their working. They would tease the fan base by picking enough talent that would keep them interested in watching the game, thus ensuring that the popularity grew.

On one side was the Indian selection committee which watched the whole unification of princely states following independence with fascination and then cleverly applied reverse tactics snuck in making a selection panel to represent different zones. Thus they could make excuses to the media with words like “Zonal Quota” to select talentless players when all other pieces of the team fit together nicely. When a serious talent came up through the system to become the greatest cricketer ever, they packed the rest of team with players to ensure batting collapses around him. They learnt to place a gag order on the players and then declared a team with several “injured” or “rested” players. As in nature, the Indian cricket team evolved to overcome this mastery of tactics by the selectors and adapt itself to all the challenges. A team comprising of players from different zones capable of playing on bouncy wickets and take care of their injuries evolved to the challenge and almost started its march to dominance by making it to the finals of the 2003 world cup. A few final touches and the dominance would be complete but the committee turned up with an Ace or more precisely a Chappell to put down the uprising and throw chaos in its working. The result was an early exit from the next world cup and a job well done. Musical chairs continue to be played with a world cup in their backyard around the corner ensuring that come the time, no-one would have time to prepare and play alongside as a team when it will matter the most. Benevolent acts towards the players of sacrificing their participation in the Asian games (wouldn’t playing Asian games be better than playing Asia cup?) is a trick not left unused.

The “Masters” have during this time not sat back. Whenever a threat has reared that looked like being unable to be handled by the committee, they have sprung into action. They have introduced new forms of the game to keep players occupied with trying to hone different skills rather than concentrate on a single aspect of the game. The league format of their other sport has been touted by the committee to lure young players with money further dividing the talent. Wine and women have been added to the mix and if things got out of hand as people pointed fingers, politics, business and their own ranks and file have been thrown to the lions to keep the truth from coming out.

On the other side of the divide is a Pakistan selection committee who given the state of politics and law in the country have had it easy to undertake the task they had been set to do. A law unto themselves, their working was simple. Ensure that there is no harmony in the team and create unrest among players. Talents would be kept from growing to maturity by infighting and all they had to do was sit back and move the pieces around. A probe once in a while and some government interference could be tolerated as it would further ease the task by simply banning and then revoking the bans on players as the governments changed around. A few stalwart captains made life difficult at times when they threatened to make a team play as a team should but time and tide took care of them. A serious threat to the committee came when they were inspired by the brilliance of the Chappell move by their friends across the border. They paired Inzamam with Woolmer and later realized what a blunder it was. But as the saying goes “Luck (was it?) favors the brave and the stupid”. Today the PCB selection committee enjoys its most successful days what with countries refusing to tour, infighting at its peak, suspicions of match fixing and a captain who has had his fill of water from the fountain of eternal youth.

What the subcontinent selection committees have been doing around a table, the West Indian players are doing to themselves on the cricket field and thus with all challenges to their supremacy firmly in control, English cricket marches on with talented South African players in their ranks to try and conquer single mindedly the rotten child (Australians) who refuse to tow the line.

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