<b>Close-in:</b> Shastri leads race for coach
The former all-rounder is the front-runner for the India coach’s job, especially with Kohli by his side. He also has the backing of Tendulkar
Indian cricket is never short of excitement and controversy. The huge sponsorship deals of Team India and IPL have been bagged by OPPO and VIVO, respectively, two Chinese mobile phone manufacturers owned by BBK Electronic Corporation. The big guns of advertising -- FMCGs, automobile companies and airlines, the regular brand building high profile firms -- were bewildered at being left out of the race by these two new entrants. Meanwhile, cricket continues in full force with the Indian men’s team winning the ODI series in the West Indies without a coach, and the women’s side continuing their successful run in their quest to win the ongoing ODI World Cup in England.
But the news that cricket fans are awaiting is the appointment of the new India coach. The date for submitting applications for the post has been extended by the BCCI to July 9. Thereafter, the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly will decide on the man for the job. The tenure will most likely be till the end of the ODI World Cup to be held in England in 2019.
The fiasco that emerged from the Anil Kumble incident will make the trio think more astutely and seriously this time around. Video conference interviews could be a tool for initial assessments, but the final shortlisted candidates should be interviewed face-to-face. The position of the India coach is a million-dollar-a-year job, and the right candidate will be scrutinised by millions of supporters as well as sponsors.
What sort of a coach will be suitable for the present Indian side? India is a young vibrant country with 800 million people below the age of 35 years. The attitude of the youngsters has radically changed in the way they perceive life and approach it. The old guru-sishya tradition has given way to a more egalitarian and democratic one. India’s top cricketers too are now looking for a coach/mentor. Apart from being a person who will support them through thick and thin on and off the field, the coach should also assist the players in improving their way of life. This could also involve helping them to connect and network.
In earlier days, Indian coaches were strict disciplinarians. They had the aura of being the head of the family. Most Indians those days lived in a joint family environment where the senior most family member was the patriarch. Therefore, the manager/coach remained a father figure till the introduction of John Wright, the first professional India coach. It was a very clever move by the late BCCI president Rajsingh Dungarpur, as John brought in different thoughts and processes. Most importantly, the move tactfully handled the issue of favouritism, as a foreigner at the head would be unbiased. The trend continued and although there were a few hiccups during the Greg Chappell era, the friendly and amicable attitude of Gary Kirsten proved a winner.

Unfortunately, India’s performance graph descended under Duncan Fletcher and Ravi Shastri had to be roped in to stop the downfall. He brought in the ‘Indian’ factor, convincing the players that his whole-hearted support was with them at all times. He protected them from the press as well the commentators, and there was this feeling of a happy contended family. The biggest benefactor was Virat Kohli who transformed himself into a run machine during Shastri’s tenure. With changes at the helm of BCCI, and the expiry of Shastri’s contract, the trend of appointing the coach via the advertisement route came into force. Though this reflects openness and good governance, to me it’s unnecessary. I feel Indian cricket was progressing well and did not need a change.
However, one felt Kumble was a good alternative. The feedback one gathers now from the media and hearsay shows that his coaching methods and thought process were more suitable for aspiring youngsters, rather than established cricketers. I guess one can attribute his failure to not understanding the changed mindset of the present young Indian team. Shastri is the front-runner for the coach’s job, especially with Kohli by his side. He also has the backing of Tendulkar. The Word Cup is just two years away. So it’s better to go with a tried and tested person rather than experimenting with someone new. If something goes wrong with any of the other candidates, it will be too late for a change. Women’s team captain Mithali Raj was much more assertive in this context. She insisted on her preferred coach, Tushar Arothe, and got him.
(The author is a former India cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh