India’s series against Australia ended on 28 March. Then, there was a two-month hiatus for the Indian Premier League (IPL). Virat Kohli, although injured, was with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team in Bengaluru — Anil Kumble’s home town.
Obviously any breakdown in relationship must have happened during India’s home series and the IPL would have been ideal for Kumble to sort issues out with the captain and rest of the team. Had he done so, things would not have blown up so dramatically at such an inopportune time. In fact the inability of Kumble, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) to resolve the conflict over those two months has thrown up many uncomfortable questions.
Be that as it may, Indian cricket, which has been in a non-stop crisis mode for the past three years, has yet another crisis to tackle. What makes it worse is that it has now pervaded into the national team. Till now, every controversy was confined almost exclusively to issues dogging administration. But now with the coaching impasse having hit the roof, a quick and clean resolution is needed to ensure that the team stays above the goings-on in administration. It is in BCCI, COA and Indian cricket’s interests to make certain that it stays that way.
It is a foregone conclusion that in any tussle between players and coach, the latter would be the loser. This happened with Greg Chapell, Kapil Dev and a host of others. Basically, if relations between coach and players reach a stage where trust is broken, they cannot communicate freely with one another. In such a scenario, no further coaching would take place. This would defeat the very purpose for which a coach was put in place.
It is owing to such a scenario that BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly have been called upon to identify the next coach from among Virender Sehwag, Tom Moody, Dodda Ganesh, Lalchand Rajput, Richard Pybus and Kumble.
Meanwhile, the BCCI would do well to have a short-term holding coach, say Ravi Shastri, for the forthcoming tour of West Indies (23 June to 9 July – 5 ODIs, 1 T20) and during that interim period work out a system to identify the national coach for the next three years.
Basically a system must be put in place to ensure that those with little or no coaching experience are not thrust upon the Indian team. Indian cricket is serious business and the BCCI should not use it to experiment with coaches.
The ideal situation would be to have a good coach hone his skills with the India A teams for a couple of years before he is promoted to handle the main Indian team.
Frankly, Indian cricket's penchant for short term solutions has seen many legends fail as coaches. Kapil Dev, among others, readily comes to mind. It is equally important that they do not look at a coach from the prism of his past performance as a player. A great player need not make a good coach.
Having said that, Sehwag and Ganesh are too raw to be let loose on the team. Sehwag’s reputation as outstanding batsman with out of the box approach should not mask the fact that he has very little exposure to handling people of different temperament and ability. And certainly BCCI cannot afford to let him do his apprenticeship with the Indian team.
Rajput, who has some coaching experience at the Under-19 level was replaced by Rahul Dravid a couple of years ago. He was the manager of the Indian team when they won the inaugural World T20. Rajput’s recent coaching experience seems confined to coaching Afghanistan.
Like Rajput, Pybus has little experience in handling high profile teams. His coaching assignments have been with Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Indies.
Under the circumstances Moody seems to be the best candidate. Sources in Sunrisers Hyderabad camp reveal how he kept the team engrossed and in a relaxed state of mind with numerous bonding games. Some of the players took to it with childish glee. Their calm state of mind was evident in the manner the team went about its campaign last year, when they won the IPL, and this year, when they were beaten by D/L method in the eliminator.
Moody, who was member of Australia’s World Cup winning teams, has close to two decades experience in coaching. His matured approach may be just the calming touch Indian cricket would need over the next three years.
One hopes the BCCI would choose wisely and with a long term vision in mind. If needed, BCCI should employ a good administrative manager who could take a load off the coach. Indian cricket has some wonderful players. They just need to be forged into an effective team. Who better than a mature, knowledgeable coach to achieve this. Hopefully the three wisemen of BCCI’s CAC will get it right.