<b>Close-in:</b> Mentor needed, not coach
The present Indian side needs a mentor who will be there to give players advise only when asked for, besides supporting them endlessly on all issues
Indian cricket on the field was working like a well-oiled machine, smoothly and efficiently. India, the number one Test side in the world and on the periphery of leading the pack in the one-day format too, looked to be heading on the right track to prosperity.
The expectations of millions of followers do make one feel a bit dizzy, as cricket is an unpredictable game and one can never count one’s chickens before they hatched. And the Champions Trophy final defeat against Pakistan brought Indian supporters down to the ground. The highly emotional and critical fans, who are often immature in defeat, again surfaced vehemently. Social media was full of criticism and unpardonable remarks, with the fans never for once realising that India’s debacle didn’t come in the league stage, but in the final. India was the firm favourite to win the title, but a few tactical errors led to its defeat. Lady luck too eluded the team at crucial junctures.
Pakistan looked like a team that had been blessed. They barely scraped through to qualify for the tournament and somehow managed to cling on to the last straws to make it to the knockout stage. Having been humiliated by India in the first match, Pakistan had very little to lose and this brought in a carefree attitude that stood them well in the remaining matches.
Pakistan coach Mikey Arthur looked like a man ready to put in his papers after the team’s first defeat. The team and the captain even apologised profusely to the fans following the India debacle. Pakistan is a side known to churn out rare talents, and seeing some of them perform at the grand stage was quite
Meanwhile, Indian cricket is going through turbulent weather off the field. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Committee of Administrators (CoA) are trying to get one up on each other to establish supremacy. This warring factor itself has put the BCCI in a state of uncertainty. The sooner the Supreme Court (SC) takes a firm decision, the better it will be for Indian cricket. One does understand that the highest judiciary body of India has many more pressing issues in hand rather than worrying about the state of Indian cricket. But justice TS Thakur had taken up the task of resolving the issues affecting the most important sport in India. After getting so deeply involved with the matter, the Supreme Court cannot pedal slowly towards it now. The ball is in the SC’s court, which has to come out with a firm verdict on July 14 to settle all the questionable issues for once and all.
The Anil Kumble resignation saga is a case in point of the vulnerability that exists now. The BCCI is using the Lodha Committee reforms whenever it finds them convenient. Before Kumble took over, the Indian team was going along pretty well under Ravi Shastri and his support staff, alongside captain Virat Kohli. But rather than continuing with the reasonably successful combination, the BCCI decided to advertise for the coach’s post besides cleverly entrusting the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman the task of picking the next coach. This farce was not required, as the team was happy and content with the way it was interacting with Shastri.
The first mistake the BCCI committed was choosing three well-known cricketers from the same era to form the CAC. We then witnessed a verbal duel between the outspoken Shastri and Ganguly. This was quite understandable as Kumble’s entry, precipitated by the trio, made him a definite choice. Why Kumble was considered ahead of Shastri by the trio was itself a thought to ponder over.

Kumble then went on to do a splendid job and with Rahul Dravid as India colts’ coach, the Karnataka pair formed a perfect combination for the future of Indian cricket.
The phrase “nothing lasts forever” did come forth strongly with regard to Indian cricket. The conflict of interest clause mentioned in the Lodha report came to the fore with historian Ramchandra Guha making it an issue while stepping down from the CoA on June 1, terming the upright Dravid as one of its victims. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and Dravid was retained to continue with his assignment.
Kumble, on the other hand, refused a short-term extension and stepped down on Tuesday. This is quite understandable as without the backing of the captain and the team, it would have been quite demeaning for him to continue. One of the reasons for his predicament is that he interpreted the term “coach” wrongly in the context of Indian cricket. The present Indian side needs a mentor and a well wisher who will be there to give the players advise only when asked for, besides supporting them endlessly on all issues. The battle being highlighted is one between Kohli and Kumble. It’s a complete fallacy, as the matter goes much deeper. There is always a “gang” behind the captain. Many former coaches and managers faced similar problems and unfortunately nothing has changed. Some of the coaches were mature enough to see through the façade, while others were not.
With or without a coach, we should beat the West Indies in the upcoming one-day series. In the meanwhile, I feel the Indian team should decide whether they want Virender Sehwag or Shastri as mentor and put the title of “coach” to rest permanently.
(The author is a former India cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh