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Karun Nair & Murali Vijay aren’t lying. Indian cricket’s communication gap must be bridged

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To dismiss players whose careers are on the line as being liars for speaking out is disrespectful. Vinod Rai-led CoA needs to first admit there exists a gap.

There are very few times when being critical of your employer ends well. Karun Nair and Murali Vijay are finding that cricket is no exception. Both players face the prospect of a slap on the wrist, at the very least, from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), for their frank comments in interviews after India’s tour of England.

Nair was the first to speak out, after being part of the squad for the five-Test series, not playing a game, and being left out in favour of Hanuma Vihari, who only came into the squad after the third Test.

Asked if he had had any conversations with the selectors or team management about being left out, he told Cricbuzz: “No, we haven’t had any conversations. Nothing at all. It is difficult, but I haven’t gone forth and asked anything, but yeah, we haven’t had any conversation.”

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When the interviewer persisted, asking him, “Nothing from that side (selection panel and management) as well?” He answered in one word. “No.”

Subsequently, Nair was dropped from the squad for the two home Tests against West Indies, and this time he got a call almost immediately after the selection meeting was over, from chief selector M.S.K. Prasad.

Then there was Vijay, who played the first two Tests of the England series, scoring 20, 6 and 0 and 0 — the first pair of his 59-Test career — before being dropped from the XI for the third Test, and then from the squad for the final two games.

When asked what sort of dialogue he had had since being dropped, Vijay told Mumbai Mirror: “Nothing at all. Neither the chief selector nor any other person spoke to me in England after I was dropped from the third Test. None of them have spoken to me since. I did have a conversation with the members of the team management in England and that’s it.”

Selectors’ claims

Now, Prasad has dismissed both these claims out of hand, insisting that Devang Gandhi, the selector on tour, had spoken to both players, explaining the reasons for their lack of selection. ThePrint understands that overtures have been made to both players to withdraw their statements, but neither plans to do so. Which leaves us in a situation where one of the two parties is not being entirely truthful.

The fact of the matter, though, is that neither Nair nor Vijay has anything to gain from making false claims. Nair’s career has barely taken off, despite having a Test triple hundred under his belt, and Vijay would not like to believe this is the end of the road for him.

Oddly enough, while Prasad has insisted that Gandhi spoke to the players, Gandhi has maintained a studied silence on the matter ever since it became public.

There’s further reason to believe that the players aren’t pulling something out of the hat in this case.

Remember when Ashish Nehra announced that he was going to retire from all cricket after playing a Twenty20 International at his home ground in Delhi even before the squad for that series had been picked? When the team was announced, Prasad said the selectors had told “the player and the team management that we are only looking at him till the end of this New Zealand series”.

Nehra being Nehra called the bluff.

“I never had any discussion with the selection committee about my plans,” he said. “When I started playing cricket, I didn’t take any selector’s permission. When I am leaving, I am not leaving with their permission.”

This happened almost a year ago, and till date, Prasad has not once contested Nehra’s statement or taken the player up on it.

Where exactly is the problem?

To start with, Prasad and his panel have no say in selecting the playing XI for any overseas Test. The captain, vice-captain and coach have a meeting, convened by the manager, before each match, and pick the playing XI. This, despite one selector being on tour with the Indian team on every occasion. How, then, is a selector supposed to explain a player’s exclusion when he was not part of the decision-making process?

It became clear just how contentious this was when Virat Kohli was asked about the Nair brouhaha ahead of the first Test against the West Indies in Rajkot.

“The selectors have already spoken about it and it is not my place to say,” Kohli said before elaborating.

“There are three selectors [actually five] who are doing their job and as I say, people conveniently merge everything and make it a circle… where everyone’s given that opportunity or doing their job, not focussing on what’s happening or being spoken on the outside. So, if a person has spoken about a certain thing, it should be cleared then. It shouldn’t be brought in here again.

“The chief selector has already spoken to the player of what I know. I don’t think I am in a place to comment about that because selection is not my part of the job, it is upon three individuals to do what they are doing. And then as a team, we have to do what we are doing. I think everyone’s doing their job and everyone should be aware of who’s doing what, when their jobs are concerned and I think people should also be aware of that.

In conclusion, Kohli said: “It is not a joint thing everywhere, I think that’s the confusion right now that people are combining everything in one space and thinking everything is happening from one place, which is not true.”

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CoA must admit there is an issue

Vinod Rai, head of the Committee of Administrators (CoA), also dismissed the suggestion that the players had not been spoken to, but surely he should have undertaken some sort of inquiry before doing so? How difficult would it be to get Nair, Vijay, Gandhi and Prasad in one room, sitting across a table, when the CoA meets on 11 October, and clear the air once and for all?

To dismiss players — whose careers are on the line — as being liars for speaking out, despite being under pressure not to do so, is disrespectful and counter-productive. There clearly is a communication gap, and the first step in bridging it is admitting that the problem exists.

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