Bangalore: Many years ago, Mohinder Amarnath called the Indian selection committee 'a bunch of jokers'. These days, Amarnath is a member of that same committee, but some of the calls the body takes still make as little sense as they did then - before the selectors became paid employees of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Let's leave the Test squad for another day. It has its own share of big issues. Who takes Rahul Dravid's place? Is Ishant Sharma match-fit? But for now, let's focus on the other squad, that chosen for the World Twenty20. And just three names - Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla - account for the bafflement.
The primary thought behind bringing Yuvraj Singh back seems to be that he has a great record at ICC events - he was Man of the Tournament when India won both the 2007 World T20 and the 2011 World Cup. Secondly, now that he's getting back to full fitness, he needs the support of his team and the management at the end of a very trying personal period for him. No arguments there.
But what of the fact that he hasn't played any cricket since November 2011? I am as happy as the next Indian cricket follower that Yuvraj has battled his illness successfully and returned, but should a recall be such a simple matter? An injured cricketer needs to play a couple of domestic matches to prove his fitness. Doesn't that logic hold true for illness? If anything, an illness, especially of the sort we understand Yuvraj had, takes a lot more out of a person than a hamstring strain. Will a few weeks' training at the National Cricket Academy suffice? Shouldn't there at least have been the word 'provisional' in parentheses next to his name? He could then be required to play a couple of smaller matches, and prove that he was up to the task.
With Harbhajan Singh, the selectors have played the Baffle Card. For over a year, he's been out of the Indian team. He played for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy and picked up just two wickets in three games. He played for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and picked up six wickets from 17 matches. He has been playing for Essex on the English county circuit of late and done precious little. Why is he back then? And if his obvious dip in form wasn't such a big deal, why was he kept out when India toured Australia during the 2011-2012 season? If his experience can come in handy in Sri Lanka for the World T20, wouldn't it have served the team well in Australia? Or at the Asia Cup?
That leaves us with Piyush Chawla. The only explanation for bringing the legspinner back could be that the other spinners who have been tried in a never-ending game of musical chairs - bar R Ashwin, who seems to have become a regular now - were not up to scratch. So, much like at the 2011 World Cup, it's Chawla's turn to sit in the chair. Harbhajan seems to have benefited from the same logic.
There is of course the small matter of figuring out the playing XI. Who plays as the lead spinner, Ashwin or Harbhajan, keeping in mind that there are a host of part-time spinners in the squad? If nothing else, these three gentlemen - Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Chawla - were part of both the 2007 and 2011 teams that won world championships. Two of them have a history of putting in match-winning performances. And at least one of them has traditionally saved his best for the big events. History. Probably what K Srikkanth and company based their decisions on this time. A bit of a gamble - but that is something that characterises Srikkanth: from the way he batted in his glory days to the way he has ended his tenure as the Chief Selector.
Except, once you take off the glasses that give everything that happened two decades ago a rosy tint, you realise that Srikkanth's Test average of 29.88 and One-Day International average of 29.01 meant that his gambles were often wrong. But we don't like to talk about that, do we?