I once asked the legendary Tiger Pataudi if he always got the team he wanted. “I got my eleven; the reserves were sometimes so-and-so’s cousin or that other one’s nephew,” he said. So, even in the 1960s, the squad was a mixture of merit and compromise. The proportions have steadily changed since. “Seventy years after Independence, we could well argue that cricket is one of the few largely meritocratic activities in the country,” says Sardesai, and he is right; it is an important transformation.
No cricket eleven, whether chosen by professional selectors (and remember, in their case, selection precedes performance) or cricket lovers is guaranteed to be universally acceptable. It might seem churlish, therefore, to criticise a purely personal choice, but Democracy’s XI is a team with only two bowlers, so it cannot, in all fairness, actually take the field. If the intent was to represent Indian democracy, then others might have fit the bill too and made for greater balance. Players from outside the urban milieu, for example (Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla), or from Christian backgrounds (Chandu Borde, Roger Binny). Or the sons of groundsmen, coal-haulers, labourers who made it big.