top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Silence is golden for selection feedback

John Townsend

Spare a thought for Sarfaraz Khan.

Sarfaraz who?

Sarfaraz is in the rarest stratosphere alongside Don Bradman but you could be excused for never having heard of him.

The youngest player to appear in the IPL when he made his debut for Bangalore as a 17-year-old in 2015, Sarfaraz has made a more substantial fist of his first-class career for Mumbai.

His batting qualities were foreshadowed five years before his IPL start, when, as a 12-year-old, he broke the Indian schoolboy record with a handy 439 for his school. No retiring after 20 balls in that competition.

Sarfaraz’s ability to bat time has been evident throughout a first-class career in which he now averages 80.47 after 36 matches.

Bradman (95.14 from 234 matches) is the only other player in cricket history to average above 80 from a minimum of 50 innings.

You might have heard of Prithvi Shaw. He is a precocious batting talent who scored a century on Test debut five years ago but hurt his ankle early on the most recent tour of Australia, and was then sent home for an off-field incident that has not been identified nor even speculated on.

Prithvi produced his highest first-class score a few days ago, a mammoth 379 for Mumbai in a game in which Sarfaraz missed the fun by batting at No.5 and being left 28 not out when the declaration came.

What do these two have in common?

Neither was named in the Indian squad to take on Australia next month.

What else do they have in common?

Neither has produced woe-is-me Harold Wales sobbing nor pointed criticism of the selectors for telling them one thing one day and letting them down the next.

Khan said he was sad at being overlooked but responded in the best possible fashion by immediately scoring another century for Mumbai. Actions may well speak louder than words.

This might be pure speculation but the concept of criticising the selectors for your non-selection does not appear to have caught on in India.

It never used to be a thing in Australia, either.

It is now.

Adam Zampa, who has played just one Sheffield Shield match in three years and has a bowling average of 47.91 that is the worst for any Australian wrist-spinner to have claimed 100 first-class wickets, is not happy at not being picked for India.

Putting aside the dubious wisdom of selectors telling a player that he is in the frame for a tour then whipping the rug out from under him, it is quite disconcerting to observe players expressing quite critical views of the individuals responsible for enhancing or restricting their careers.

Yet that is what Zampa did.

“The messaging was my style of bowling might have been handy over there,” he said last week.

“Now that I’m not (going) I’m very flat about it.”

Could you imagine a player saying that about a selection panel chaired by Laurie Sawle? Or John Inverarity? Or Bradman, whose thin skin was evident from the players whose Test careers were ended by the wrong comment at the wrong time when he chaired the panel and ruled Australian cricket with an iron glove?

Des Hoare, for example, or Ken Archer might have offered plenty more to Australia if only Bradman had not put a black line through their names over their unwelcome or clumsy comments.

There is nothing wrong in players speaking their minds about contentious issues, though the reality is that it happens only rarely and even then mostly after tacit approval from the changerooms or corporate supporters, but it is easy to cross the line from candour to self-pity.

Zampa appears to be in that latter camp and so too is Usman Khawaja, the veteran having an autumn flowering, who recently unleashed his own criticism of racism clouding selectorial clarity.

“If you have two cricketers, one brown, one white, both the same, the white coach is going to pick the white cricketer,” Khawaja said.

There is considerable irony in Khawaja being living proof of the exact opposite – of a player being picked for his talent despite his skin colour, and presumably ahead of white-skinned players at every level of his cricket journey.


bottom of page