The drama surrounding the selection of the Indian cricket team's coach just got mighty interesting. There is a new character in the play - one who may just prove to be the game changer.
As the hunt for the right candidate goes on, a New Indian Express report has revealed that commentator and Anil Kumble's predecessor as India coach, Ravi Shastri, has decided to re-apply for the position.
"Yes, I have decided to apply for the job,” Shastri told the daily over the phone from London, where he is currently for a broadcasting assignment with Star. However, the former India all-rounder termed the suggestion that he would be interested to re-apply only if assured of selection as "bull crap", and insisted on being quoted verbatim.
Shastri was appointed the director of the Indian team after a disastrous away Test series against England in 2014, and was made the interim coach for the Bangladesh series in 2015. Shastri's presence in the dressing room immediately turned the tide for India, with the team winning the ODI series in England, reaching the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup and 2016 World T20, winning their first Test series in Sri Lanka in 22 years, and climbing to the top of the Test rankings, after thumping South Africa 3-0 at home.
However, in spite of a largely successful 18-month stint, and in spite of his fantastic rapport with Test captain Virat Kohli, Shastri was relieved of his duties and Kumble took over as the Indian coach just before the West Indies series in July-August, 2016 on a one-year contract.
"Yes, Ravi is very interested and will be applying for the coach's post very soon," a source close to Shastri told PTI on Tuesday.
Now, following Kumble's exit as the India coach after falling out with captain Kohli and apparently some other members of the team, there is a void to be filled in in the Indian dressing room. Virender Sehwag, Dodda Ganesh, Lalchand Rajput, Tom Moody and Richard Pybus were already in the fray, with popular opinion tending to believe that the flamboyant former India opener, Sehwag, was best placed to get the job. However, the BCCI decided to extend the deadline for submission of applications till 9 July - the day the ongoing tour of the West Indies gets over - and called for fresh applications.
Shastri's decision to contest assumes significance in that light, because given his proximity to Kohli and the heft that Kohli's opinion carries, as has become evident in his entire spat with Kumble, Shastri seems to be the favourite in this race. However, Shastri does not share a great equation with former India captain and Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) member Sourav Ganguly. All the applicants will have to appear for interview before the CAC comprising Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman apart from Ganguly, and how the CAC evaluates Shastri's candidature will be interesting to see.
Kumble and Kohli parted ways amidst acrimony after the Champions Trophy final, with Kumble venting his disappointment on Twitter, saying that his continuation as coach had become "untenable" as the captain had "reservations" with his "style". Kohli, for his part, in a press conference praised Kumble's achievements as a player, but made no mention of his coaching. Moreover, he noted that what happened in the dressing room was "sacred" and not to be shared with the wider world, which seemed to be a veiled dig at the former India coach. The Indian captain also went far back in his Twitter timeline and deleted the message he had posted last year congratulating Kumble after he was appointed the coach.
With inputs from PTI.