The appointment of Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid as India’s bowling and batting consultants has not been finalised as yet, despite the cricket board announcing the same.
As much as Indian cricket establishment has amused us over the years with its machinations, the current one involving some of the finest players India has produced is staggering.
The case with Anil Kumble was clear. The captain – Virat Kohli – was not keen on him continuing as India coach and that was the end of the story. Maybe Kumble should never have been appointed in the first place, as the previous appointee Ravi Shastri was doing a decent enough job. Kumble left with a smear on his CV, and for no fault of his.
However, the Dravid situation is quite different.
The former India captain played the game with a straight bat, literally and figuratively. When the Indian team needed a batsman to do the wicketkeeping duties so that an extra batsman could be accommodated in ODIs, Dravid was the man. Out of his 344 ODI matches, Dravid played 73 as the gloveman, including in the 2003 World Cup.
When the Indian Test team required an opener at short notice, it was Dravid. During the 2011 tour of England, which was an unmitigated disaster for the Indians on the field, Dravid was asked to open the innings in two out of the four Tests due to the fitness issues of regular openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
So now Dravid and Zaheer no longer team resources (really don't know which word means what anymore so chose this!). Very embarrassing.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 15, 2017
In both Tests, Dravid scored a century. In fact, in the fourth Test, he scored a ton and carried his bat. India lost the series 4-0 but Dravid’s batting stood out for its resilience.
After retirement in 2012, guiding the younger generation of cricketers looked like the natural next step for someone like Dravid who is seen as ‘the’ role model.
Instead of vying for a glamorous seat in the Cricket Advisory Committee in 2015, which included stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman and which is involved with major on-field cricketing matters, Dravid actively sought an opportunity to work with younger players. In 2015, he was named coach of the India ‘A’ and U-19 teams.
In 2016, the then BCCI president Anurag Thakur revealed he had asked Dravid to coach the Indian senior team. But Dravid was happy to continue in his role as India’s junior team coach and IPL side Delhi Daredevils’ mentor.
“I requested Rahul Dravid to coach the Indian team. “He didn’t say no, but said that he will work for the junior team,” Thakur was quoted as saying.
“That is the good thing about Dravid, he didn’t go for the senior team post, big money and all. He wanted to work for the junior cricketers and not the senior team.”
What it really meant was Dravid didn’t want to get into any clash of egos or uncomfortable situations that come with high-profile appointments – be it in powerful committees or senior team management.
The shameful treatment of Anil Kumble has now been compounded by the cavalier treatment of Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid.— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) July 16, 2017
But even then, Dravid found himself in the spotlight when his role as coach and IPL mentor was questioned by former BCCI administrator Ramachandra Guha this year, pointing to a potential conflict of interest.
Sure enough, Dravid gave up his IPL contract to work with the U-19 and ‘A’ team full time.
Then this week, the former India batsman was named batting consultant of the senior team for overseas tours by the board. However, the court-appointed committee of administrators revealed it was just a recommendation.
It might be finalised in the coming few weeks but that doesn’t hide the slipshod manner in which Dravid has been treated.
Here is a man who has gone out of his way to ensure no one questions his work ethics and style of functioning, as a player and then coach. He gave up his IPL contract and now doesn’t know whether he will be working with the senior team as a consultant.
Now it appears coach Shastri wants his own set of full-time coaches and is fine with the likes of Dravid and Zaheer working only as “consultants from time to time”.
The blame for the current situation must fall on the BCCI, as the advisory panel of Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly had exceeded its brief in appointing two consultants when they were only asked to select the coach.
When exemplary figures like Kumble and Dravid are forced to look for answers after being handled shabbily, one wonders how many big names will line up for similar positions in the future. You see, these are individuals who have earned their reputation after years of toil and sacrifices.
Unless of course, those lining up for the job in the future don’t mind being tossed around in the mind-boggling maze of Indian cricket administration.