Millions of cricket fans, in India and abroad, await the announcement of the name of Team India coach with bated breath. Who will it be? Will the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) spring a surprise?
BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) made up of cricketing legends, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman will most probably have decided on the name of the new coach by the evening of 10 July 2017.
The legendary trio will also, before that decision is made, be briefed by a BCCI official on the preferences of skipper Virat Kohi and some of the team’s senior players who are now in the Caribbean Isles.
With that one decision, whether on purpose or by default, the CAC will also have set a direction for Indian cricket for the next decade or so.
The man who set India on the path to freedom from colonial stranglehold exactly a hundred years ago, Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles. Today, it means getting along with people.” While ‘interviewing’ potential candidates for the coveted post of coach of the Indian team, the CAC will do well to look for this one quality of ‘leadership’ above everything else.
In the fray for the important position are Tom Moody (Australia), Richard Pybus (England) and Phil Simmons (West Indies), with Virender Sehwag, Lalchand Rajput, Dodda Ganesh, Venkatesh Prasad and Ravi Shastri, making up the Indian challenge. That a South African ‘legend’ had shown interest in the job was a rumour that has gone uncorroborated.
Anil Kumble, who had coached Team India from June 2016 onwards, had stepped down from the post after India lost to Pakistan in the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy in England recently. The legendary spinner, who has a mind-boggling 956 international wickets — had been requested to be with the team till the end of the Caribbean tour, though his tenure ended in June 2017. Untenable differences between Kumble and skipper Virat Kohli, however, had led to the former taking this unprecedented step.
‘Jumbo’, as Kumble is known to the cricketing fraternity, is a legend of the game, and is mature and well versed with the ways of modern cricket. Besides, he is a man of high integrity, honesty and a gentleman to the core; qualities that would make a great leader. Where, then, did he lag behind? Man-management skills, perhaps!
Great coaches have high EQ
With the Kumble episode at the back of their minds, the CAC will look for a few traits — or man-management skills — while they ‘interview’ the potential coaches for Team India. Great coaches — who would know better than Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman? — care deeply about people, are ambitious and have great self-esteem. Further, they have high EQ, are great innovators and possess extraordinary communication skills.
Most brilliant coaches are well-read, with an inquisitive mind, and see coaching as a two-way exchange of energies and learning. Finally, they walk the talk and are grateful to the world around them for whatever they have achieved in life.
Team India, or any international sports squad worth its salt, possesses a support group to look after different aspects of the game; technically, physically and mentally. The head coach therefore has only to coordinate the efforts of the support team to derive maximum benefits for the team.
Who’s in, who’s out?
Fifty three-year-old Richard Pybus, gave up cricket in his 20s after an injury, to concentrate on coaching. He has coached the Pakistan and Bangladesh squads and is at present, director of cricket with the West Indies Cricket Board. Pybus has been one of the most successful domestic-level coaches in the world, having achieved great success with the Titans and the Cape Cobras in South Africa. He has guided them to an incredible nine titles in six seasons!
Pybus is said to possess great man-management skills, is technically good and has worked with teams in the sub-continent. He would therefore be high on the priority list of the CAC.
‘Long’ Tom Moody, 52, played for Australia in the 1990s with moderate success in both Tests and ODIs, though he is a two-time World Cup winner. He was rejected by the BCCI in 2005 in favour of Greg Chappell and again in 2016, when Kumble was appointed.
Moody guided Sri Lanka to the finals of the 2007 World Cup. He has had extensive coaching experience in England and in Australia, and has been the coach of Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2012. He helped the Hyderabad-based franchise to its maiden title in 2016.
Will he be third-time lucky? Moody, with his experience and performance, should be short-listed, especially since Laxman has watched him from up close.
Fifty four-year-old Phil Simmons played as an opening batsman and a medium pacer for the West Indies from 1988 to 1999. He took up a difficult assignment with the Zimbabwe national side in 2004 but was sacked in 2005. He then had a very successful stint with Ireland and was appointed head coach of the West Indies side in 2015. He guided a second-string West Indies to a win in the 2016 T20 World Cup in India.
Known to develop players and build a winning culture, Simmons probably isn’t somebody that Indian cricket is looking for at the moment.
The Indian challenge
Coming to the Indian contenders, Lalchand Rajput, Virender Sehwag and Ravi Shastri would probably make the final list of five. Dodda Ganesh and Venkatesh Prasad, with very little coaching experience, could possibly be in the rejected list.
Rajput, 55, was a successful Mumbai batsman and skipper. A manager of the Indian team that won the inaugural T20 World Cup and with the experience of coaching India’s Under-19 and A teams, he has the right credentials for the Team India job. He has also had a very successful stint in recent times with the Afghanistan national squad.
Ravi Shastri, 55, played for India as an all-rounder between 1981 and 1992. A gritty customer, he was one of those who made maximum use of his limited talent to make a mark for himself at the international level. A commentator and presenter in later years, he had a very successful tenure with the Indian team as Director. A brilliant skipper in his playing days, Shastri has the wherewithal to mould this talented Indian squad into world-beaters.
Thirty nine-year-old Sehwag, on the other hand, has had the least coaching experience. Despite that, he is said to be a front-runner for the post. A legendary opening batsman, his stint with King’s XI Punjab in the IPL hasn’t been very successful and his criticism of his foreign players — after failing to qualify for the playoffs in IPL 2017 — hasn’t gone down well with the pundits.
Sehwag’s coaching philosophy, like his batting, has been, “See the ball; hit the ball”. Therefore, the only reason that the CAC could short-list him for the final five is his proximity to the legends, who have all seen him perform from close quarters.
Venkatesh Prasad, 48, who played 33 Tests and 161 one-dayers for India was a bowling coach of the Indian team between 2007 and 2009. He is also the bowling coach for the Royal Challengers, Bangalore. Dodda Ganesh has coached Goa from 2012 onwards and has worked with NCA’s Under-16 and Under-19 sides.
The final slugfest
Since the opinion of the India skipper and the senior players in the side will play a major role in the CAC’s decision, one can probably guess the two names that will emerge as favourites for the coveted post from amongst Pybus, Moody, Sehwag, Rajput and Shastri.
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It's about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers,” writes Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.
As far as impact, influence and inspiration goes, Shastri and Moody are two leaders of men who have very little competition in the game today. Therefore, fans can expect a slugfest of sorts on behalf of the two, at the CAC meeting in the coming week.
It’s a guess, and a very wild guess at that, that Ravi Shastri will be Team India’s new coach for the next three years. Or are we in for a surprise?
The author, besides being a writer and cartoonist, and a former fast bowler, has coached top local, elite level teams in cricket and football.