Saturday, March 10, 2012

On Kalra's Point By Point Rebuttal

I looked carefully in Kalra's long response for a actual rebuttal of my original post. I failed to find it. As those of you who have read that post will know, its point was not to say that the selectors were right in some or all of the decisions that Kalra takes issue with. It was that he does not show that they were wrong. It was that he fails to acknowledge the limits that exist to being able to show that a selectorial decision is wrong on the merits. It is from this view that I took issue with his old and tired line about the selectors being "jokers". As I wrote in the first paragraph of my post (in an admittedly long sentence):
Every selectorial decision from the exclusion of Yusuf Pathan from the list of 37 centrally contracted players, to the selection of Varun Aaron ahead of Umesh Yadav from the Mumbai Test, to the team management's decision to play VVS Laxman ahead of Rohit Sharma at Adelaide, to the presence of Rahul Sharma as third spinner in the Test squad in the home series against West Indies, to the non-selection, again, by the team management, of Manoj Tiwary in the playing XI in the tri-series in Australia, is paraded by Kalra as an example, no, as an equally egregious example of selectorial incompetence. (emphasis added)

Kalra ignores this point completely in his response. My argument with Gaurav Kalra was not about what the selectors are doing right and what they are doing wrong. It was not my purpose to show that the selectors were right. It was my purpose to show that he doesn't show that they are wrong, and that if he has done the actual reporting (as he is a professional journalist this is not, I propose, an unreasonable expectation), it is not apparent in his story. Kalra's rebuttal is full of pointless (re)litigation of every selectorial decision. He does not understand what an understudy is, neither does he seem to understand that there is a difference between selecting someone as an understudy, and selecting someone in a game that is being treated effectively as a selection trial. I should say here that I didn't say that Rahul Sharma was selected as an understudy or that the Mumbai and Kolkata Tests were treated as selection trials for the two genuinely fast tearaways that the selectors wanted to have a look at for Australia. All I asserted was that this could have been the reason for the way the selections went. An understudy is a potential stand-in. By definition an understudy comes into play when the regular performer has been indisposed at the last minute. The term comes from the Theater.

For the purpose of this argument, I am willing to concede the following - I agree with everything Kalra says about every single selection. I will take the view that he's right, and that the selectors made the wrong decision in every single instance that he cites. So what? How would that show selectorial incompetence? There are probably as many opinions as there are journalists and bloggers when it comes to selection. How does that make the selector's decisions "shambolic", how does it make them "jokers", how have they performed the "greatest disservice to Indian cricket" by not interfering with the selection of the XI for the Adelaide Test? Is there not an obvious disconnect between the hyperbolic rhetoric and the relatively pedestrian arguments that support it? Given Kalra's position as the Sports Editor of a major news organization in India, this is worth commenting on in my view. It is in this sense that I found Kalra's original argument to be mediocre ("of moderate quality" as the meaning of the word goes).

In his rebuttal, Kalra also largely ignores the other major issue I took with his attack. I wrote
It is an attack on the selectors that does not take the work of selection seriously. It is also an attack on cricket selectors that ignores cricket because it offers no serious diagnosis of India's performance (listing results is no diagnosis) that might form the basis of his attacks.
I continue to hold this view after Kalra's spirited rebuttal. If selection was merely a matter of rewarding success and punishing failure, then a trained monkey could do it. It is far more complicated than that, especially in India where the pool of talent and skill is uneven - the batting bench is far deeper than the fast bowling or spin bowling bench. Given the harshness of Kalra's attack on the selectors, one would expect a fairly nuanced account of both their work and the cricketing contest itself. One would expect to get at least some indication of the fact that such an account underlies the harshness of the criticism. This is missing, both in his original post and in his rebuttal.

One last point about Kalra's rebuttal. He claims at some points that I made some concessions, namely that I agreed with his view on the selection of batsmen for Adelaide. I have held this view for a while and wrote about it after the Sydney Test. I also wrote in my original post about Kalra that I don't disagree with every decision that the selectors make.

I won't go into all the twitter and direct message exchanges that I've had with the Sports Editor of CNNIBN, but I do take issue with his claim that my attack was against him personally. Kalra's argument (in a Twitter Direct Message to me), was

"since your piece was directly aimed at me i think its only fair that you publish mine on the same page- without a comma changed"

He justified his decision to not use Cricketnext was on account of

i do not wish to use cricketnext as a forum for arguing between two individuals-since i dont have my own blog space, yours is right platform
Given that Kalra's twitter ID is called "@gauravCNNIBN" and identifies him immediately as "CNN IBN Sports Editor" and given his blog at is titled "Grumble with Gaurav", it is hard to believe the argument that he was arguing "as an individual" and that he does not "own blog space". If "Grumble with Gaurav" is good enough for the original post, why is it not good enough for continuing the argument? This is a question only he can answer. For my part, I have decided not to provide post space for further rebuttals in this debate. However, it has always been my policy not to moderate comments, and this policy continues. Kalra is welcome (like every other reader) to comment on my blog if he wishes.

Here are a few attempts I've made over recent months to provide precisely the kind of diagnosis of the cricket, that I think must inform any criticism of selection related issues. In my view, before one criticizes something, one must commit to an understanding of what it is. It is not essential that you agree with these specific positions, but I hope you will see how such complications might temper some of the vitriol one might reasonably aim at entitites like Selectors.

On a shift in cricket, the re-emergence of a specific kind of fast bowler and its influence
On India's batting in Australia
On a couple of post-series accounts of India's troubles in Australia.
On India's deepest problem - Fast Bowling
On India's troubles in the CB Series
On the consequences of the Ranji points system for cricket in India.

It would take a lot of specific evidence of selectorial malpractice for me to agree with the kind of critical conclusions Gaurav Kalra draws about the selectors. He fails to provide this. Mere disagreement with individual selections is not enough.


  1. Great rebuttal. Though i still think you shouldnt have posted his rebuttal as a blogpost. The comments space is all he deserved.

    Television reporting in India has become euphemism for a pretentious form of sensationalist publicity. The fact that gaurav fails to fathom this, agree with it, or considers it as a generalization, shows his provincialism.

    Its about time people stopped giving a shit about him. Leave him alone. He's just another overrated TV. These guys don't set the bar high. Infact, i doubt if they even care about objectivity as a crucial element in media ethics

  2. Kalra wins. Kalra wins. Any sane person who has read the exchange would conclude the same. And Kartikeya's first post was a nasty personal attack. I must say one thing about this blogger- he could have become a great cricket writer, but his attitude prevented him from doing so. He has a set of hypothesis which he begins with, eg, selectors are perfect, there are understudies in 2012 (that was the most ridiculous part), fitness and fielding are over-rated, bowlers are solely to be blamed when batsmen kept getting out to incompetent bowlers like Ben Hilfenhaus to name a few. Inevitably, when an argument happens, he first treats his hypotheses as proof, then fights stupidly like children over candy, and tries to bolster his previous weak hypothesis by layers and layers of make-beleive. As an architecture student, he should know that building built with similar designs as his stupid, bull-headed way of arguments- not conceding even when proved to be blatantly wrong, collapses.

    All in all, it is sad that he could not expand as a cricket writer and continues to be bitter by the day. Kartikeya Date could have been the next Harsha Bhogle. The next month or two will see him blame everything on the IPL. In this case, Kalra was logical and full of grace. Rude, petulant, condescending Date believed that he was logical.

  3. The comment from vasant has to be most elaborate ad hominem attack i've ever read. Not once does he mention does substantiate his claims with evidence or reason, just random disregarding and conclusions that make little sense.

    Kartikeya is truly one of the intellectuals mainstream media does not have a place for not because of lack of talent but purely due to adherence and subservience to a form of coverage that polarises opinion and resorts to the dominant ideological conclusion that begins and ends with being popular. Just that

    Something tells me the guy's crushing on Kalra (actually even that wouldnt explain the ridiculousness that is the above comment)