The controversy over the Cricket Advisory Committee air-dropping its choice of batting and bowling consultants into head coach Ravi Shastri’s support staff notwithstanding, it is perhaps time to jettison the old ways and instead engage the best of local experts to deliver the goods.
Of course much of the controversy revolves around semantics: Was Shastri “consulted” or “informed” about Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan being made batting and bowling consultants respectively?
On Wednesday, Firstpost pointed out that the CAC was undermining its own head coach by not giving him a freehand to bring along his choice of support staff
Another media report on Thursday said that CAC’s Sourav Ganguly had informed Shastri of including Dravid and Zaheer following which it quoted the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators of stating that the CAC had exceeded its brief by naming the support staff.
Meanwhile, late on Thursday night a letter purportedly written by CAC to BCCI found its way into the media.
By now it had become apparent that the CAC need not have exceeded its original brief of selecting the head coach. Had it done just that, all the attendant controversy would not have taken place.
They probably had asked Shastri if he had any problem working with Dravid and Zaheer. Wonder what the reaction would have been if he had said ‘Yes’ instead of a ‘No’! The media would have had a field day and Shastri would have become toast!
The controversy apart, the time has come to forget saddling the team with a variety of coaches. It would be better if the BCCI enabled its head coach to dip into a pool of consultants in a horses-for-courses approach to each series, if indeed the “several series lined up over the next two years” is the concern.
For instance, hire the expertise of former fast bowler Shaun Pollock for the series against South Africa in South Africa. He could be engaged a month in advance to work on the lines and length of the fast bowlers. It is no secret that South African pitches call for pitching the ball on a different length and Pollock, better than any Indian bowler, could advocate it.
Besides, he would have greater knowledge of climatic and pitch conditions in various centres and how they would hold up each day.
Likewise, Shastri could engage Jason Gillespe, Brett Lee or Glen McGrath for the Australian tour and one of the recent England fast bowlers for the tour of England.
The same could be the case with batting consultants. It would be better to bank on batting experts Jacques Kallis, Michael Clarke and Kevin Pieterson or Mark Ramprakash to impart their knowledge and expertise of local conditions in South Africa, Australia and England respectively.
These are not novel ideas. England toured India with Saqlain Mustaq and Mushtaq Ahmed, both Pakistanis, to help them adjust to Indian conditions. Both Saqlain and Mushtaq had played a lot of county cricket and knew the capabilities of the English cricketers. Their familiarity with sub-continent conditions and English cricketers were expected to be assets.
The Australians utilized the services of Sridharan Sriram, a former Tamil Nadu Ranji Trophy cricketer, to outsmart India in three days in the Pune Test.
Sriram was earlier a recipient of the Border-Gavaskar scholarship to Australia. Under erstwhile India A coach Roger Binny, he had trained at the Australian Cricket Academy along with Mohammad Kaif and Shivshankar Das and was thus familiar with many of the Australian cricketers.
The manner in which they utilised his services for helping their spin bowlers and advising the batsmen in playing in Indian conditions was an eye opener.
It is this sort of expertise that India must tap into. The batsmen and bowlers don’t need hand holding. They have got this far, into the Indian team, because of talent and performance. But now to take them to the next stage of development they need those vital inputs which will hasten their learning process and give them that vital edge.
Of course batting and bowling coaches are needed in a modern team set up. But micro management on overseas tours -- where Indian teams of the past have repeatedly fallen short -- probably calls for a local consultant who could give it that edge.
Considering that Indian inputs have not been successful thus far, may be the time is right to engage local expertise on overseas tours. After all most of these overseas experts have been around with IPL franchises for a decade and have an intimate knowledge of Indian psyche and attitude. Time to make that count for India’s benefit.