Delhi Ranji coach to lose job after selection panel disbanded

- January 6, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

Poor performance by Delhi Ranji team and squabble between senior selectors over under-25 team becomes reason for selectors’ axing and sword handing over coach Abhay Sharma

CAC head Nikhil Chopra expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of coach Abhay Sharma. (Photo: Facebook)

The Delhi senior cricket team head coach Abhay Sharma is set to be removed soon after the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) president Rohan Jaitley sacked the senior selection committee following internal squabble between selectors over the choice of players in under-25 team and a poor showing by the senior team in the Ranji Trophy tournament.

“The coach is being removed and a decision to that effect will be intimated in a day or two,” said a senior DDCA official to Patriot.

Jaitley had issued an email late on Thursday sacking the entire selection committee that comprised chief selector Gagan Khoda, Mayank Sidana and Anil Bhardwaj. The decision had come following a walkout by Sidana from the under-25 meeting when he complained that all of his recommendations were shot down.

Gagan Khoda, chief selector, who has been removed

The committee was responsible for selecting the under-25 and senior Ranji teams. While the under-25 team is yet to start the season, the senior team, led by former India under-19 captain Yash Dhull, has garnered just two points from its first four matches. It lost to Saurashtra by an innings and 214 runs on Thursday.

“I am stood compelled to write his mail for placing on record my disapproval on the manner in which the men’s [senior] selection committees of the DDCA are discharging the affairs. It appears that such committees are functioning without any vision and mission,” wrote Jaitley.

“The issue of manner in which players are being selected and replaced at the drop of a hat has become talk of the town… Despite clearly informing the committee that the number of players shall be restricted to 15-16 players, the committee has time and again recommended 20-22 member squad for each team. Therefore, these committees are only doing disservice to the DDCA but also to the game of cricket,” he further wrote.

He added in his scathing email that in the past Delhi would provide Indian team with at least four to five players at a time.

“The situation today is such that we cannot name even a single player whom we (management as well as the selectors) perceive as a potential candidate for the national team. Despite giving free hand and full support, I am pained to note that the selection committee has failed to do any good for the players of Delhi in general and Delhi team in particular.”

Jaitley took serious note of the squabble between Sidana and Khoda as well as the secretary Siddharth Verma in the under-25 selection meeting.

Mayank Sidana, who had walked out, has also been removed besides Khoda and Anil Bhardwaj

Patriot had on Thursday reported that besides the squabble, the head coach of under-25 team Pankaj Singh was not allowed to sit in the selection meeting while certain selectors did not attend the trial games.

“It has transpired from the media reports that the selectors are making teams without even going to the trial games. In case the selectors are busy in their personal work and are unable to attend to the selections process, which is a time sensitive matter, it would have been prudent for such selectors to inform the DDCA about their preoccupation and inability to continues as selectors.

“It transpires from the media report that the coach for under-25 men’s team was deliberately not invited for the selection meeting. To my mind, it is most important not only that the Head Coach attends each and every selection committee meeting, his views must also be taken into consideration before taking any final decision on the selection…I am informed that the coach has attended each and every trial match as against certain selectors who did not bother to see the trial matches on their own accord. Therefore, I see no reason for not calling the coach for the meeting.”

He also said that the manner in which the selectors have conducted themselves doesn’t suit them.

“It is apparent that the selectors are engaging in personal affairs more than serving Delhi cricket. They have indulged in mudslinging and street fighting instead of serving the cause of players and Delhi cricket. I am aghast at the manner in which the selections are being done and the selection committee is conducting itself.

“Therefore it is anticipated that most appropriate action shall be taken by the CAC led by its lead chairperson.”

Jaitley wrote the email in response to the letter sent by Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) head Nikhil Chopra wherein he too had questioned the behaviour of the selectors.

“Kindly refer to your inline mail. I have discussed the matter with my fellow CAC members and we share the sentiments with you… Mr Gursharan Singh, member CAC, has been attending selection committee meetings as our observer and he informs me that selection committee (Sr Men’s as of now) is working in an absolute unprofessional manner. As of now, keeping mind interest of Delhi cricket, we propose to disband the men’s selection committee forthwith. Till the time we are able to find a suitable replacement and further investigation, CAC will look after the functioning of Sr Men’s Selection Committee with inputs from the TEG (a committee comprising Madan Lal, Sunil Valson and Vinay Lamba).”

Chopra also expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of coach Abhay Sharma, writing in the mail to Jaitley, “Further, the performance of Ranji team is quite disappointing. We shall assess the contribution of senior chief coach for the time being and may suggest suitable measure there as well.”

Delhi crash to Saurashtra

The performance of Delhi Ranji team that Chopra is referring to reached its nadir when Delhi crashed to a defeat against Saurashtra by an innings and 214 runs in Rajkot on Thursday.

This followed an outright loss to Maharashtra in the season opener as well as two drawn games against Assam and Tamil Nadu in which Delhi conceded points on first innings.

At the moment, Delhi are lying in seventh place in Elite Group B with two points and are almost out of the race for knockouts.

Delhi had taken two specialist openers to Rajkot but did not play any of them.

Salil Malhotra and Vaibhav Sharma were both picked as specialist openers but Delhi opened with Ayush Badoni along with regular opener Dhruv Shorey.

Besides, under-25 team left-arm spinner Yogesh Sharma was drafted in and taken to Rajkot in place of Vikas Mishra but was not played.

Questions have also been raised on why skipper Yash Dhull, who had opened successfully last season hasn’t been opening the innings this season. He has batted either at No. 3 or No. 4, leaving the job of opening to wicketkeeper-batsman Anuj Rawat in earlier games and to Badoni in the last game.

Dhull’s captaincy may also be at stake.

Former Delhi captain and India’s 1983 World Cup-winning star Kirti Azad has, however, questioned the dismissal of the selection committee. He wrote a letter to Jaitley, saying, “Why do you blame the selectors? When the selectors are given barely few days to select the team, what can they do? Has the team played together before a major event? Please remember all teams have long and strenuous camps and the results shown by teams like Rajasthan, Vidarbha, Saurashtra, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, J&K, Mumbai etc are for all to see. We need to sympathise with the selectors rather than hold them as scapegoats.”

Rajkot drubbing

In the game at Rajkot, Delhi were set back on the first day itself when Saurashtra and India pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who is fresh from an impressive performance in Test matches in Bangladesh, ran through Delhi’s top order, picking a hat-trick in the first over itself.

At one point in time, Delhi were seven wickets down for just 10 runs and only a half-century from lower-order batsman Hrithik Shokeen and spinner Shivank Vashisth’s 38 got them through to a modest 133.

It was well below the desired score on a placid Rajkot surface. Saurashtra made merry when their turn to bat came, hammering 574 for eight in 147.2 overs before declaring.

Opener Harvik Desai (107) and No. 5 batsman Arpit Vasavada (152 not out) hit centuries while Chirag Jani (75), Samarth Vyas (54), Prerak Mankad (64) and skipper Unadkat (70) scored half-centuries against a hapless Delhi attack that is lacking its premier fast bowlers due to injuries.

With backs to the wall, and a huge 441 runs adrift, a demoralised Delhi managed to do only a shade better in the second innings. They folded for 227 runs, Shokeen again returning as the top-scorer with 51 to his name.

Former India under-19 player Ayush Badoni, made to open, made 40 off 35 deliveries.

While Unadkat was the most successful Saurashtra bowler in the first innings with eight for 39, Yuvrajsinh Dodiya took 5/91 in the second innings.

It was pathetic display from the seven-time champions Delhi who last won the premier tournament back in 2007-08 and last reached the final in the 2017-18 season.