Over the past 30 months, Venkatesh Prasad, as chairman of the BCCI's junior selection committee, sat through hundreds of matches - most of them in small towns and dingy centres - assessing skills, attitude, agility and fitness of the country's emerging players. Now, the 48-year-old former India fast bowler - who played a key part in putting together India's U-19 squad which won the World Cup this year - has called time on his role.
Prasad, who has donned several hats since retiring from international cricket in 2001, on Friday (March 2) wrote to top BCCI officials and the Committee of Administrators, tendering his resignation from the post with immediate effect.
Confirming Prasad's resignation, CK Khanna, acting president of the BCCI, told TOI, "I spoke to Prasad and asked him to reconsider his decision. But he is firm and wants to move on. A thorough gentleman, Prasad's contribution as a selector is immense and we at BCCI are proud of his achievements. We wish him all the best."
Prasad indicated that he wants to return to coaching and revealed that the BCCI's conflict of interest clause was the prime reason for his resignation. According to the clause, "Cricketers appointed as coaches of Indian teams or national selectors shall not be associated with any private coaching academies during their tenure." The clause is applicable to national, state or franchisee-based leagues.
Asked about his coaching role, Prasad refused to divulge details. "I understand the conflict of interest clause and so I have resigned," he said. "I am weighing my options in coaching and will reveal my next assignment in due course."
Over the past few days, there have been talks of Prasad joining an IPL team as bowling coach. It would mark the wily bowler's foray into coaching after a four-year hiatus with his last assignment being with the Uttar Pradesh senior cricket team in 2014.
Prasad has rich experience in coaching at various levels, having mentored the 2006 U-19 World Cup team to the final and worked as the bowling coach of the national senior team the following year. He was also part of coaching units of Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai Super Kings and his home state Karnataka.
Prasad, who took over the chief selector's role in September 2015, said he leaves the position with the satisfaction of having worked with sincerity and purpose of identifying young talent. "It was a huge challenge but an exciting one. I love travelling and have logged thousands of miles across the country. It wasn't easy watching so many matches where the key was to be alert and observant. We had to assess players on a lot of factors and I couldn't afford to be lax."
On what he considers the highlight of his fruitful tenure, Prasad said, "I always discussed and debated with my colleagues on the need to give youngsters as many opportunities as possible. It is important to keep their hopes alive because many of them could be late bloomers and may represent the country in the next 2-3 years. I'm glad we tried out a lot of players in various tournaments over the past couple of years."
Unlike the senior committee members, who gained Rs 15 lakh each for the men's and women's team good performances last year, Prasad and his co-selectors Gyanendra Pandey and Rakesh Parikh got nothing from the board for the U-19 World Cup triumph, although, a reward purse was announced for the coaching staff alongside the players. Prasad refused to dwell on the issue and said he did his job with passion sans expectations of rewards.