The Indian cricket team’s backroom staff appointment drama rumbles on as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) made a sudden U-turn on the decision to make Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan batting and bowling consultants respectively.
Dravid and Zaheer had been appointed by the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) comprising of Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman. Their appointments were announced on July 11 in a BCCI Press release signed by Secretary Amitabh Choudhary.
While there had been interim reports of some discontent in the Committee of Administrators (CoA) about the appointments of the two, the BCCI’s reversal was complete on July 15 when the head of the committee Vinod Rai issued a confirmation that the appointments were not concrete but were actually ‘recommendations’ by the CAC.
He added that the recommendations have to be consulted by the CoA along with Ravi Shastri and stated that the core backroom staff had already been decided in consultation with the newly appointed head coach.
It has now been announced that another committee involving officials from the BCCI, CoA and the head coach Shastri has been formed to decide whether Dravid and Zaheer are even required and if yes, then in what capacity. This meeting will be convened by BCCI CEO Rahul Johri.
The confusion and drama surrounding the Dravid and Zaheer appointments is another chapter in the saga regarding the appointments of the Indian team’s backroom staff.
After the resignation of Anil Kumble as India coach in June, the process to replace him and his staff seemed straightforward on paper but that hasn’t been the case.
Here, we look at the timeline of events ever since Kumble’s appointment as head coach last year.
July 21, 2016
Anil Kumble, Tom Moody and other candidates make their presentations before the CAC in Kolkata for the position of team India head coach.
Shastri, who is in Bangkok had submitted his presentation earlier and does a video interview with the CAC from Thailand.
July 23, 2016
Kumble is appointed as team India head coach, replacing Shastri who has been filling in as team director.
May 25, 2017
BCCI release advertisement inviting applicants for the team India coach position as Kumble’s one-year initial tenure nears an end.
June 20, 2017
Kumble resigns as team India coach amidst reports of breakdown in relationship with team captain Virat Kohli.
July 10, 2017
The five candidates who had applied for the position of head coach – Ravi Shastri, Tom Moody, Virender Sehwag, Richard Pybus and Lalchand Rajput are interviewed by the CAC.
July 11, 2017
Reports emerge on the evening of Shastri’s appointment as head coach which is then denied by BCCI officials leading to confusion.
Finally, late in the day, Shastri’s appointment is confirmed by the BCCI along with Rahul Dravid as a batting consultant and Zaheer Khan as bowling consultant for overseas Test tours.
UPDATE: Mr. Rahul Dravid is appointed as the Batting Consultant for overseas Test tours pic.twitter.com/mS1KcVI2Hh— BCCI (@BCCI) July 11, 2017
July 13, 2017
A CoA member suggests that the CAC has exceeded its brief in appointing Dravid and Zaheer as consultants.
The same day, CAC hits back with an e-mail to the CoA claiming they have confirmation from the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri which gives them a ‘free hand’ in deciding the backroom staff.
July 15, 2017
CoA head Vinod Rai confirms BCCI U-turn saying Dravid and Zaheer appointments not yet confirmed.
Kumble, Dravid and Zaheer were true greats of the game who gave it all on the field. They did not deserve this public humiliation.— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) July 16, 2017
July 17, 2017
CoA says another committee involving Shastri and officials from the BCCI and CoA has been formed which will meet soon to review the need to appoint Dravid and Zaheer.
All eyes will now be on the meeting of the new committee formed to look into the possibility of appointing Dravid and Zaheer.
Injured opener Murali Vijay was on Monday ruled out from India’s upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka, the cricket board said on Monday, with Shikhar Dhawan named as his replacement.
Vijay, who underwent surgery on his wrist in England after the four-Test series against Australia, has already missed the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament.
The 33-year-old batsman is set to undergo rehabilitation after pain reappeared in his wrist while playing a warm-up match, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a statement.
Dhawan, who has played 23 Tests at an average of 38.52 since making his debut in 2013, is now part of the 16-man squad for the three Tests starting in Galle on July 26.
The left-handed batsman, who last played a Test in October against New Zealand, was the highest run-scorer in the 50-over Champions Trophy in England and Wales in June.
India, led by skipper Virat Kohli, are also slated to play five one-day internationals and a single Twenty20 after the Test series wraps up.
Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.
(Provided by AFP)
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?