Following Indian cricket backroom staff drama, should captains have a say in head coach selection?

With Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri back together at the helm, Sport360's Ajit Vijaykumar and Chris Bailey debate whether a captain should get the coach of his choice.

Sport360 staff
by Sport360 staff
24th July 2017

article:24th July 2017

New innings: Shastri will be working with the Indian team for the third time.
New innings: Shastri will be working with the Indian team for the third time.

The Virat Kohli-Anil Kumble captain-coach saga created a lot of noise for all the wrong reasons and had Indian cricket in a spot of bother for some time.

But the main question that arised out of the whole scenario was, whether the captain should have a say in the selection of head coach or not.


Let us know your thoughts as two of our writers discuss the topic.

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AJIT VIJAYKUMAR, SAYS YES

In an ideal world, the selection process in a team is pretty straightforward. The selectors pick the best team and appoint the captain.

The senior management, ideally a group of officials with on-field experience, selects the support staff while keeping in mind the requirements of the team.

If only it was that simple. Especially when it’s a team like India and a captain like Virat Kohli. Generally, there are a fair number of senior players in a team who call the shots when it comes to cricketing decisions that directly affect the team.

That includes team composition, what to do after winning the toss and so on. But India are in a peculiar position. Kohli is the undisputed leader of the team in all formats.

Yes, MS Dhoni is still in the team but he gave up limited overs captaincy sensing that this team is Kohli’s and its best to let the Delhi batsman have full control. All three Indian teams revolve around Kohli and his requirements come before everyone else’s, whether you like it on not.

So if Kohli developed a good working relation with Ravi Shastri and wanted him to continue as coach, it was a fair request.

As former Australia captain Ian Chappell stated: “If a coach is to be inflicted on a captain then at least it should be someone with whom he’s comfortable.”

Again, this is not to say that every captain should be allowed to do whatever he wants. Checks and balances are important and you also need another experienced head in the team to give a different perspective, especially when the team is in trouble on the field.

But India have created a unique work environment. There are no Sachin Tendulkars, Rahul Dravids, Sourav Gangulys, Virender Sehwags and VVS Laxmans in the side.

Kohli makes most calls and takes the credit or flak for it. So it makes sense for Kohli to work with a coach he is comfortable with. If it all fails spectacularly by next year, we can look to change it then.

CHRIS BAILEY, SAYS NO

More than in nearly every other sport, international cricketers exist in a bubble. They spend so much time out on the field, in the nets or in each other’s company that very little gets through from the outside world.

It is the same environment – particularly when on tour – that has driven cricketers to mental illness, so intense and necessarily insular day-to-day life can be. That is why it is so crucial to have someone, or a collective, who is a step removed from the playing staff and can study the bigger picture.

You may call it presumptuous, but I doubt Virat Kohli is keeping tabs on the star coaches in world cricket when his most pressing concern is the clutch of people under his command.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri interact with the team prior to the Test series against Sri Lanka.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri interact with the team prior to the Test series against Sri Lanka.

Indeed he was far more focused on ousting the incumbent coach, Anil Kumble, than thinking ahead as to what may be in the best interests of India.

So it is in any wonder that Kohli the kingmaker paid no mind to Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar’s recommendation and instead picked his mate Ravi Shastri, who has previously fit into said bubble, to ‘lead’ India?

Kohli did not even sit in on the interview process, which Australian coach Tom Moody reportedly aced in all regards. It was all for show.

The argument for Shastri’s appointment is that the Indian players are simply too talented to need anything more than an arm around the shoulder and a few spirited words. That viewpoint is naïve.

Cast your mind back to 2007, when Gary Kirsten – who is arguably India’s greatest-ever coach –needed reassurance that he would be accepted by the dressing room. Scepticism soon dissipated as he improved almost every player’s game – even Tendulkar had some of his most fruitful years under the South African.

If Kohli, and his huge power base, had been around 10 years ago then Kirsten likely would never have got the chance. Bubbles are made for bursting.


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