Hyderabad: He played 28 Test matches and 53 One-Dayers for India. But now at the age of 37, Venkatapathy Raju is all set to start a new innings, as a national selector. So what will his priorities be?
It’s little surprise that the phone doesn't stop ringing these days. In 11 years of international cricket, a smile never left Raju's face and five years after he last played for India, it’s still very much in evidence. But the big question is whether he can keep the smile on in the hot seat of a national selector.
About his priorities, Raju says: "Basically playing Test cricket earns you experience and priority is on who all perform. They should be given their due, and just like the last committee, they did a great job and now there’s a new team with Vengsarkar. So, once I meet him I’ll know the exact priorities, but it will obviously be performance oriented selection."
Raju will be faced with many ticklish choices once he assumes charge. He was the perfect foil to Anil Kumble in their playing days and has enormous belief in Kumble's ability as a match-winner, even in One-Day cricket. But in his hometown Hyderabad, Raju will face the heat on the inclusion of VVS Laxman in the One-Day squad.
"I think people have this wrong notion that because I was selected from Hyderabad. I faced the same problem when Azharuddin was the captain and it is not because of Azhar that I was in the team. Laxman is a great cricketer and he has played One-Dayers as well as Tests, and won so many matches for us. And like I said, performance only will count and we are just looking into that," Raju says.
Raju will be the only other member of the new selection committee besides chairman Dilip Vengsarkar to have played Test cricket. So, how does he see his equation with his new boss working out?
"He’s been such an experienced player and a captain of the Indian cricket team and has been into selection for so many years. So he has been searching around for talent. I think he is the ideal person to head the committee and playing with him and being his roommate before, it will be relatively easy for me," Raju adds.
It’s the World Cup year and one poor selection can be the difference between victory and defeat. For a man with 93 Test and 63 One-Day wickets, this may be the biggest test of his cricket career.
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