Why now, Jimmy?

Old timers never get bored of repeating Mohinder Amarnath's tales of valour. The compulsive hooker could take endless body blows from the meanest of pacers, wash his bloodied flannels at night and start the next day by hitting the short ball behind the square for a six. His disdain for fearsome bowlers could only be matched by his contempt for impulsive selectors who would drop the enigmatic batsmen way too often. That was Lala's son. He spoke with a drawl, walked with a swagger. He made young boys play club cricket with a piece of red cloth peeking from their back pocket. Jimmy, in short, defined what was 'cool' to a generation.

Post-retirement, he would wear a pink shirt and break into a song while commentating. And now, by his own admission, he was a part of a selection committee that didn't have muscles and, maybe, lacked a spine too. His and his co-selectors' decision to sack skipper MS Dhoni in the middle of the Australian tour earlier this year was over-ruled by BCCI president N Srinivasan; but there wasn't a whimper. The Jimmy of old would have walked out of the meeting in a huff, quit and even called the BCCI officials a "pack of jokers". But at 62 he had changed.

The outburst came but only after he had lost his Rs 40 lakh per annum paying selectors' job. Team India were down 1-2 in a series they were expected to win and Dhoni, rather unfairly, was the perfect scapegoat. Amarnath says his disclosure was in the best interest of Indian cricket. But his motives, for racking up an 11-month old issue on the eve of a watershed Test, can be questioned.

There's no denying that Dhoni was in the dumps when Amarnath and Co wanted a change at the helm but who did they have in mind as his possible replacement? Sehwag, Gambhir or Kohli? The first two were struggling to retain their places in the side while Kohli was too young, too new and too immature a handle a disgruntled and divided dressing room of a team witnessing a generational shift. Captaincy has seen players of greater skill and more obvious promise succumb to pressure. Kohli was too precious to be risked. For once, you didn't mind BCCI being autocratic.

Sandeep is national sports editor based in Delhi


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