At 22:57 IST on Tuesday, a forlorn email confirmed what the Indian cricketing universe already expected: Ravi Shastri was named the ‘new’ head coach. It put an end to a day-long swirl of rumours about his appointment, with television channels jumping the gun earlier in the day even as the BCCI was reluctant to put out official word.
This, despite the Supreme Court-appointed COA’s commandment of announcing the verdict of Monday’s interview process as quickly as possible, only added to the confusion. Former skipper Sourav Ganguly (part of the Cricket Advisory Committee with Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman) had said post-interview that they would wait to consult with Indian skipper Virat Kohli as well.
In summation then, the BCCI’s late-night ‘official’ word put an end to this near-farcical process, saved by the additional announcements of Zaheer Khan as bowling consultant and Rahul Dravid as batting consultant (overseas Test cricket).
Beyond that, this whole coach-selection exercise can be classified under pointless. It was an open secret that Kohli preferred Shastri as the new coach. As such then, why invite applications in the first place, if it was an open-and-shut case from the very beginning? What would have been the deliberations between the three hallowed members of the CAC on Monday, after hearing out all applicants?
A particular name comes to the fore here. Tom Moody has been applying for the Indian coach’s job since 2005. He was part of two World Cup winning Australian squads in 1987 and 1999. He also coached Sri Lanka to the 2007 ODI World Cup final.
He has significant coaching experience in Australia and England, serving as director of cricket for Worcestershire during the early 2000s, and since then has worked in the same post for the Caribbean Premier League’s international affairs as well as with Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League.
In 2013, he took charge of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. He led them to the 2016 title and three times into the playoffs. He was the most qualified man for this job but didn’t get it; perhaps because Indian cricket has burnt its hand prior with Australian coaches – read: Greg Chappell.
Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar went through that bitterness from 2005-07, and it is anybody’s guess if those memories will be enough to put them off such contemplation. This is the underlying point. The whole Anil Kumble-Kohli fiasco made headlines because the captain expressed his displeasure with the coach. It was imperative for the CAC to avoid repetition, so much so that they even avoided someone like Virender Sehwag.
Like Kumble last year, Sehwag doesn’t have much coaching credentials, barring a 2016 and 2017 coaching/mentoring stint with Kings XI Punjab. While that didn’t stop Kumble’s elevation, it could be a stickler given how the Kumble-Kohli relationship ended. Tweeting comedy in 140 characters is different from running the dressing room, whilst keeping the captain’s ego in check, and Sehwag is only known to be adept at one of these two aspects.
As such, if comfort level is the watchword, Shastri’s relationship with Kohli and other senior members of the team is cosy, and that is an understatement. During his stint as team director from 2014 to 2016, he brought the dressing room together, especially when MS Dhoni quit Test cricket, allowing them enough freedom to grow as individuals as well as a unit. Despite Duncan Fletcher’s presence as coach until March 2015, Shastri was the go-to man when it came to any matter of man-management.
And isn’t this the basic brief for any coach in modern-day cricket? Do the likes of Kohli, Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ishant Sharma really need to be told how to bat or bowl? At best, they need advice, opinion even, on certain technical aspects.
Perhaps, they need to hear only what they want to hear – encouraged in public even when losing, and admonished only within the confines of the dressing room. It was certainly Shastri’s way during his previous stint.
Cynics will throw statistics from that period and argue results. From 2014 to 2016, India won two Test series (2-1 in Sri Lanka and 3-0 at home against South Africa on rank turners, both in 2015) while losing 2-0 in Australia in 2014-15. They reached the semi-finals of both the World Cup and World T20, but otherwise, the limited-overs’ arena left a lot to be desired.
India won an ODI series 3-1 in England when Shastri first assumed charge, and won the T20I series 3-0 in Australia followed by victory in the Asia Cup T20 in 2016. In between, they lost the tri-series in Australia, 2-1 in Bangladesh, 3-2 at home to South Africa (all in 2015) and then 4-1 in Australia (2016).
Results under Shastri don’t make for happy reading but did they even matter?
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have confirmed Ravi Shastri as the head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team with his contract set to run until the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England.
Shastri’s appointment comes after Anil Kumble decided not to continue in the role after his contract ended after the ICC Champions Trophy last month.
Former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan has been appointed as the bowling consultant, while former captain Rahul Dravid will act as the batting consultant for overseas Test tours.
Five candidates – Shastri, Virender Sehwag, Tom Moody, Lalchand Rajput, and Richard Pybus – were interviewed by the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) for the job on Monday.
This is not the first time that Shastri will be part of the backroom staff of the Indian team. He was the team manager for the tour of Bangladesh in 2007 and then served as the team director from August 2014 until the World T20 in 2016, during which India reached the semi-finals of the World Cup and the World T20.
During his playing career, Shastri represented India in 80 Tests and 150 ODIs. He scored 3830 runs and took 151 wickets in the longer format while notching up 3108 runs and picking up 129 wickets in the one-day game at the international level.
Former skipper Ravi Shastri has emerged as the front-runner to be the new coach of India, but a final decision remains on hold until captain Virat Kohli has been consulted.
Shastri, 55, was among five high-profile candidates interviewed on Monday for the post left vacant by ex-Test captain Anil Kumble, who resigned amid difficulties over his relationship with Kohli which he described as “untenable”.
An advisory committee of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman has been tasked with selecting the new coach to head the world’s number-one ranked Test team.
The cricketing greats considered presentations from Shastri, Virender Sehwag, Australia’s Tom Moody, Englishman Richard Pybus and former India manager Lalchand Rajput.
But after a gruelling round of interviews the committee decided there was “no hurry” to name the coach, and felt Kohli should be consulted before the final decision was made.
Speculation has been rife that Shastri, who served as India’s team director between 2014 and 2016, is on friendly terms with Kohli and will therefore get the nod.
“All members of the Indian cricket team are in favour of cricketer-turned-commentator Shastri taking over the role,” reported The Times of India on Tuesday.
“All 15 members of the team are unanimous on this. It’s not even 14-1,” the daily reported, citing an unnamed member of the Indian cricket team.
Ganguly told reporters that Kohli would be briefed on the developments once the team returned from their limited-overs tour of the West Indies.
“Sri Lanka tour is in a week’s time, the board headed by (secretary) Amitabh Choudhary and (chief executive) Rahul Johri will probably continue with the same set for the time being,” said Ganguly.
“We want to speak to Virat Kohli once he is back from America, all three of us along with the respective people concerned.
“We will explain to him that the coaches want to function in a certain way and make sure that everybody is on the same page before we make the announcement.”
Kohli made no recommendation for who should fill the coaching role, Ganguly added, which would run until the World Cup in 2019.
Shastri, who has represented India in 80 Tests and 150 one-day internationals between 1981 and 1992, originally applied when a one-year contract to coach India was made available in 2016.
A decision by India’s cricket board to allow Shastri to interview via Skype while on holiday at the time angered Ganguly, who complained publicly about the selection process. Shastri was then pipped to the post by Kumble.