Calcutta: It’s with excellent reasons that Syed Kirmani is regarded the quintessential gentleman: His first ‘move’ as chief selector was to try and call on his predecessor, Brijesh Patel, who is recovering from a bypass at the Narayana Hrudalaya in Bangalore.
It’s another matter that visitors continue to be disallowed. Kirmani, therefore, had no option but to leave a “get well” message at the hospital. That couldn’t be done earlier as he was in New Delhi on an invitation from the Bishan Singh Bedi Coaching Trust.
In fact, Kirmani’s credentials apart, it’s his demeanour which helped him eventually ‘beat’ the other contender — Kirti Azad, a BJP Member of Parliament.
While the official announcement about the selection committee chairmanship was made on Sunday afternoon, the decision was reached late on Saturday itself (and duly reported in these columns) after president Jagmohan Dalmiya ended his interaction with fellow office-bearers and other influential Board members.
Of course, it helped that Kirmani’s experience (88 Tests and 49 ODIs) far outweighed Kirti’s (7 Tests and 25 ODIs).
Typically, despite being a hardliner on issues such as Rahul Dravid enacting a double role in the ODIs, Kirmani insisted he wasn’t for any “confrontation” with either his colleagues or the Team India thinktank.
“I’ll try to convince others that certain areas need specialists… Having said that, I accept exceptions may have to be made… Essentially, I’ll be looking to pick the right players for the right spots. That done, the chosen ones will have to be consistent,” Kirmani pointed out, when contacted at his residence.
Acknowledging destiny’s hand in the rather extraordinary turn of events (though he was tipped off by The Telegraph late on Saturday), Kirmani remarked: “More than anything else, my priority is to understand the thinking of my colleagues and, then, interacting closely with the captain and coach… In the past, I’ve headed the Karnataka selection committee and, so, I’m not unfamiliar with the role given to me.”
Incidentally, two of Kirmani’s colleagues — Kirti and Pranab Roy — played alongside him for Team India, while Kiran More became his full-time successor (in 1986) behind the stumps. Then, purely at the first-class level, Kirmani often came up against Sanjay Jagdale.
Asked if he, too, was worried over who should be slotted right at the top of the order, Kirmani replied: “Not really… After all, there’s no dearth of talent… As I’ve stated, we must pick the right players for the right spots... And, if I could add, the No.1 and 2 spots should really be going to specialists.”
For good measure, Kirmani added: “Actually, nobody will be picked and dumped without a reason… Personally, I’ll be striving to give the chosen ones enough opportunities… I was dropped when I still had a contribution to make… That hurt… Well, I wouldn’t like anybody to undergo that same experience…”
Kirmani, it may be recalled, had set sights on 200 Test victims but, as he wasn’t picked after the 1985-86 tour of Australia, was left ‘stranded’ on 198.
The Board is yet to draw up Kirmani’s itinerary, but his first assignment will probably take him to Rajkot for the October 2-4 fixture between New Zealand and India A.